Drying Oregano

I have a nice little Oregano1 patch of oregano that always looks good and lush in the spring, but by early summer it blooms and its appearance goes downhill. I had heard that many herbs do not taste as good after they bloom, so right now would be a good time to harvest and dry some of it.

In the past, we dried it peasant-style; tying the stems in small bundles and hanging them up to dry. The problem is that it’s easy to forget that you hung it up and when you finally remember, it’s gotten dusty after hanging for a few months.

Another way was suggested by Alton Brown; use a box fan and cheap paper air filters. You spread the herbs over one air filter and place another filter on top of it. Then you bungee-strap the filters to the intake side of the box fan and turn it on. The filters hold the herbs in place and prevent them from getting dusty. I’m not sure how long it takes, probably a day or two.

A third way is to use a food dehydrator. They are not cheap, costing about $40-50 and up, but I’ve heard that you can often find them at garage sales for a lot less.Oregano

One of my favorite food blogs (SeriousEats.com) had a different take. Use a microwave. So we tried it.

We took a dinner plate and laid two layers of paper towels on it, then stripped the leaves from the stems and spread the leaves out in a single layer. We placed another layer of paper towels over the leaves and put it all in the microwave. We ran it on full for one minute and then for as many 10-20 second bursts (usually no more than one or two) as it took to get the leaves dry. We were amazed at how easy it was. In about 15 minutes we stripped and dried the whole bundle of oregano stems, crushed the leaves and filled a reused spice bottle almost half-full. The herbs maintained their color as well. Instead of being brown like supermarket oregano, they were a little darker than their original color.

The only down side was that after about third plateful, the plate got very hot. So hot that I had to use hot pads to handle it. If we had a larger amount to dry, it would have been better to have several plates and switch to a cool one when the first one got hot.



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