Am I the only one that grows herbs and then thinks, “Okay…now what the heck do I do with these?”
I mean, for some herbs, it’s obvious. Mint you make a ton of mojitos and dry it for tea and make mint jam. Rosemary is a pretty easy one to figure out in the kitchen, and its health benefits are well documented. Basil gets made into pesto and many, many caprese salads.
But oregano? That one gets me every time.
What exactly do you do with oregano, other than dry it and sprinkle it over your pizza?
Well, as usual, I’ve got you covered. We’re going to take a good long look at this popular Mediterranean herb. We’ll talk about how to grow it, how to dry it, and of course, what the heck to do with it.
So, grab your herb snips and gather a bunch of oregano because when you get done reading, you’re going to need it.
For this article, we’ll be focusing on the Mediterranean variety. Mexican oregano is growing in popularity, and you may find it at the grocery store or your local plant nursery. However, they’re two different plants from different families. But we’ll come back to that later when we start cooking with it.
For now, let’s take a look at how to grow oregano.
If you love herbs that do best left to their own devices, you should be growing oregano in your landscape. In the wild, Mediterranean oregano grows in dry, mountainous areas. It prefers a warmer climate and does well in soil where other, more demanding, plants wouldn’t survive.
If you’ve got a rocky area of your property, where the soil dries out, consider planting it as a ground cover. Zones 8 and higher in the US, oregano can be grown as the perennial it is.
If you live where winters are cold and harsh, you can still grow oregano perennially. But you’ll need to cut it back and mulch it well before cold weather sets in. You’ll be rewarded with a plant that pulls double-duty as a groundcover and culinary herb.
Oregano does well in containers too.
Just remember that it prefers well-drained soil and lots of bright sun. Container growing is excellent for areas with hard winters because you can bring your oregano inside and enjoy it fresh all winter long.
For larger container-grown oregano, once a year, you’ll want to trim it back hard and break up the soil as it gets compacted. Use a long chopstick or a small hand tool to poke holes in the dirt and break it up gently. Add a few handfuls of compost and then water it well. This routine maintenance will keep big containers of oregano happy and healthy for years.
While oregano grows naturally in a Mediterranean climate, you may find on hot summer days that it benefits from a good drink.
To keep your oregano doing well, trim it hard regularly. Giving it a good ‘haircut’ will encourage plenty of new growth and keep you in delicious oregano year-round. You can easily cut 2/3 of the plant back, and it will reward you by pushing out tons of new growth.
Occasionally, oregano will go through a rebellious teen phase where it’ll look unkempt and rather raggedy. Don’t pitch it, just trim it back hard and let it be. It will bounce back eventually. It’s all part of oregano’s usual growing cycle.
Companion Planting with Oregano
Oregano is the perfect companion plant for brassicas – cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, as it’s a natural repellent to cabbage butterflies. When planning your garden, don’t forget a few oregano plants.
And in the herb garden, it does well among its fellow culinary herbs – marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and basil, to name a few.
Now that you’ve successfully got oregano growing let’s talk about preserving it.
Storing Fresh or Drying Oregano
If you gave your oregano a heavy trim, but you don’t want to dry it all, you can keep it fresh by immersing the stems in a jar of water. Who doesn’t love a bouquet of fresh herbs on the counter?
There are plenty of herbs that you can just stick out in the sun for the day, or put them on a baking sheet in a low temperature oven to dry. Oregano isn’t one of them. Drying it in either of these ways will result in flavorless, colorless flakes. (Kind of like those bottles of herbs you find in dollar stores.)
The two best methods for drying oregano are to hang it out of the sun in a well-ventilated place or dry it in a dehydrator. Both ways will preserve oregano’s flavor and color best.
If you choose to hang your oregano to dry, you can keep it dust-free by wrapping a piece of cheesecloth around it. Or you can cut a hole in the bottom of a small paper bag with holes punched into it. Thread the stems up through the hole, or similarly wrap the oregano bundle with a piece of brown paper with holes punched in it.
Any of these methods will ensure adequate airflow while keeping dust off your delicious oregano while it dries.
Cooking with Oregano
As I mentioned way back at the beginning, we’re focusing on Mediterranean oregano, which is from the mint family. In contrast, the Mexican variety is from the verbena family, like lemon verbena. Mexican oregano has a more citrusy flavor profile and doesn’t usually work for the same types of dishes that Mediterranean oregano does.
Mediterranean oregano, also known as Italian, Spanish, or Greek oregano, is more common.
You may be surprised to learn; the flavor of fresh oregano compared to dried oregano is quite different. Fresh oregano is spicy and peppery; you bite it, and it bites back. Then there’s dried oregano, which is more mellow and earthy in flavor. Cooking with fresh oregano takes much of the bite out of it.
And oddly enough, unlike most herbs whose flavor intensifies when dried, it becomes less intense. Most recipes that call for dried herbs use much less than if you were using the same herb fresh. Keep that in mind when you decide to sub fresh or dried oregano in a recipe.
The flavor of oregano stands up to heat well too. This means you can add it at the start of your cooking, and the flavor won’t get lost throughout the cooking process.
So, what can I put it in?
Oregano is synonymous with Italian cooking; use it in anything with an Italian vibe. Let’s just get this one out of the way right now – pizza. It’s a classic standby, and any good pizzeria worth their salt will have shakers of it on the table.
If you want to take your pizza game to a whole new level, try putting dried and fresh oregano on it before you take a bite.
Basically, anything with tomatoes deserves to have oregano added, even chili, which is anything but Mediterranean food.
Oregano pairs well with your three primary proteins – beef, chicken, and pork. And olive oil is a good way to decide if oregano will go well with certain vegetables – if your recipe calls for olive oil with your veggie, chances are oregano will complement that dish.
1. Compound Butter
Yeah, I know, I say that about all the culinary herbs. But it’s so good. I love butter. I think it’s why I love toast so much – it’s a butter delivery mechanism. Adding a flavorful herb to butter – yes, please.
And it’s so easy to do. Here are the directions, ready? Chop up a bunch of oregano leaves and whip them into the butter using a mixer.
2. Oregano Pesto
If you’ve got a ton of oregano on your hands and you’re ready to take your pesto game to a whole other level, give oregano pesto a try. The peppery bite of fresh oregano makes for a zesty pesto that will have you going back for seconds.
Donna, over at Whole Food Bellies, has the lowdown on making oregano pesto, and she’s even got substitutions to make it vegan and allergen friendly.
3. Oregano Infused Vinegar
Infused vinegar is another one of my go-to ways of using up herbs in the kitchen. I love whipping up quick salad dressings with them or mixing them in with a marinade.
Are your veggies a little boring? I’ve got just the thing for that – a dash of oregano infused vinegar.
Be sure to use a sterilized jar or bottle and add the fresh oregano to it, stem and all. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the leaves completely. White wine vinegar works incredibly well, but you could also try balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar too. Give it a good shake, and then let the vinegar infuse in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks.
Strain the finished vinegar using a coffee filter into another clean, sterilized jar and label it. Then start getting creative in the kitchen. I love these little swing-top bottles for all of my infused vinegar.
If you love the taste of a good infused vinegar, check out Cheryl’s Spring Herbal Infused Vinegar
4. Bouquet Garni
And of course, no bouquet garni is complete without a few sprigs of oregano added to it. The nice thing about fresh oregano is that the stem isn’t too woody, so you won’t get any weird woody flavors, but it won’t entirely fall apart while it’s cooking either. (I’m looking at you, basil.)
But what about out of the kitchen?
Oregano goes beyond the dinner table with its usefulness.
The Greeks loved this stuff and touted its medicinal benefits regularly. They also had some pretty interesting superstitions surrounding this favored herb. Check out this great piece by Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi in the Greek Reporter to learn more about the many ways it was used in ancient Greece (and still today).
Oregano wards off evil spirits? Does that include ex-boyfriends?
According to Natalie Olson of Healthline, oregano is popping up as a medicinal herb more and more these days due to a few of the compounds found in it – flavonoids and phenolic acids, which can play a role in the way the body fights inflammation. Oregano is also purported to have antifungal, antibacterial, and even antioxidant properties.
While there have been few studies on the health benefits of oregano done explicitly on humans, there have been many studies on mice. The scientific community is starting to take notice. Mainly in part to the many, many years of anecdotal evidence provided by the herbal community.
So, let’s take a look at a number of ways to use oregano besides sprinkling it on your pizza.
As always, consult your physician before using any herb in a medical capacity.
Let’s start with the difference between oregano oil extract and oregano essential oil.
You make essential oils by steam-distilling the herbs, so the resultant oil is highly concentrated. There is a lot of debate about whether or not you can ingest essential oils, and to err on the side of safety, I would recommend that you don’t. You should never apply essential oils full-strength to your skin, either.
This is why making an oregano oil extract is preferred; the resulting oil isn’t as potent as an essential oil. Off the Grid News has an easy 5-Step recipe for homemade oregano oil.
If you use olive oil for your carrier oil, you can use it both to cook with as well for the body. You’ve got to love olive oil.
5. Massage Oil for Sore Muscles and Arthritis
Oregano is a warming herb, meaning it can bring heat to the skin. With this in mind, as well as it’s anti-inflammatory properties, homemade oregano oil can be used on tired, sore muscles at the end of the day, or rubbed into arthritic hands to possibly offer some relief. You’ll want to test it on a small patch of skin first.
6. Oregano Tea
Sip a hot cup of oregano tea to help settle an upset stomach or soothe sore throats and help fight a cold. You can use either fresh or dried oregano to make tea. The flavor is peppery and a little astringent, but not too bad. Healthline recommends drinking no more than 4 cups a day.
7. Make an Oregano Tincture
Tinctures are easy to make and are a great way to reap the health benefits of many herbs. All you need is a clear base alcohol, I find vodka works best, and plenty of your herb. In this case, you need plenty of fresh oregano.
Remove the leaves from the stem and put the leaves in a half-pint mason jar. You want the jar to be full, but not packed tightly. Pour in enough vodka to cover the leaves completely. Place a small piece of parchment paper in the lid to keep the alcohol from corroding the band.
Give it a little shake; the leaves should swirl around and move freely.
Keep the jar in a cool, dark place and shake it up every week or so, checking to ensure the oregano is still completely submerged. Anything not submerged could grow mold or bacteria. In about 6-8 weeks, it should be ready.
Decant the tincture into another clean mason jar or an amber bottle with a dropper. Use a coffee filter to filter the tincture. Always label your tinctures with the date, herb, and alcohol.
You can take a dropperful directly or with your tea. Use it in much the same way you would oregano tea.
8. Add Oregano to Cut Flower Arrangements
The beauty of oregano and the sturdiness of its stems make it the perfect addition to a cut flower arrangement. When you need an extra pop of green, tuck sprigs of oregano into your bouquet. The scent of it adds to your arrangement as well.
9. Do Nothing with It
This is an excellent option if you’re growing oregano as a groundcover. Simply let it be. It will continue to grow and spread.
In the fall, it will flower, giving pollinators something to nibble on. Not everything has to be grown with a myriad of uses in mind. You could grow this beautiful plant, just to enjoy its beauty in your landscape.
But now, what are you going to do with all of that lavender you grew?
Tie a few pieces of oregano together in a bunch at the stem using some twine or a rubber band. Hang these bundles from a string or hook in a warm place inside that gets some direct sunlight. Your oregano should be dry and ready to store in about two to six weeks.When should I dry fresh oregano? ›
The timing is crucial because if I cut them too early, the flavor isn't quite up to snuff, but if I cut them too late, four-lined plant bug damage has marred the beautiful foliage and the flower buds have already developed. Early to mid-May seems to be the perfect time for drying oregano.What part of the oregano plant do you dry? ›
What Part Of Oregano Do You Dry? The best part of the oregano plant to dry is the leaves. Though the whole plant is edible, the leaves have the best and strongest flavor.Is it better to freeze or dry fresh oregano? ›
Freezing works well for basil, chives, oregano, lemon balm, mint, or tarragon. Frozen herbs can be used in the same proportion as fresh herbs. Remember though they will be limp when defrosted, but will still add fabulous flavor to your cooking.Can fresh oregano be frozen for later use? ›
Fresh oregano can also be frozen. Before doing so, though, wash and dry the fresh oregano sprigs. Strip whole leaves from stems and place in plastic bag loosely without crushing, but remove all air. Freeze and keep in a location where it will not get crushed.How long does home dried oregano last? ›
Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you. Although these seasonings may look attractive displayed over the stove, exposure to heat and moisture can make them lose flavor faster.Can you air dry fresh oregano? ›
If you're wary of drying herbs in the oven or microwave, and you don't have a dehydrator, you can air-dry your herbs easily. Wash your oregano stems and place them on a baking sheet or tray on a paper towel in a single layer and wait. Each day, turn the sprigs and check them to ensure no mold is growing.What part of the oregano plant is used? ›
The part of an oregano plant we typically eat are the leaves, though the stems and flower buds are sometimes eaten as well. Oregano is primarily eaten dried, but fresh oregano leaves have a wonderful flavor, too. Oregano can be enjoyed fresh or dried.What is the medicinal use of oregano? ›
In traditional medicine, oregano has been used for respiratory conditions (i.e. asthma, bronchitis, cough), gastrointestinal (i.e. diarrhea, indigestions, stomachache), anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, menstrual disorders, and diabetes2–4.What does fresh oregano do for your lungs? ›
Oregano. Oregano contains compounds like carvacrol and terpenes that help cleanse the lungs. It can also help reduce inflammation and congestion in the lungs and improve airflow. Drinking oregano tea daily may be helpful for people with asthma or other respiratory problems.
Diluted in a carrier oil, oregano essential oil taken internally can help with allergies. Oregano essential oil diluted in olive oil can be rubbed on sore muscles and joints for pain relief. It can be diluted for effective use on athletes foot and fungal infections.Should you wash herbs before drying? ›
Rinse herbs in cool water and gently shake to remove excess moisture. Discard all bruised, soiled or imperfect leaves and stems. Dehydrator drying is a fast and easy way to dry high quality herbs because temperature and air circulation can be controlled.How do you harvest oregano so it keeps growing? ›
Harvesting oregano couldn't be simpler! Harvest oregano once the stems are at least four inches tall. As a general guide, let them grow to about eight inches tall, and then cut back up to 2/3 of the plant. Don't worry if you've cut the oregano too much — regular trimming encourages new growth!Is it safe to drink oregano tea everyday? ›
Oregano tea is considered safe, and most people may not experience any side effects. However, high daily consumption of maybe more than 4 cups may lead to abdominal discomfort in some individuals. Because of its diuretic effects, drinking too much oregano tea may also cause you to use the bathroom more often.How do you prepare oregano for winter? ›
You can freeze the leaves to use during the winter. Oregano leaves store well and are easily dried. Keep them in an airtight container once dried.What to do after drying oregano? ›
After drying oregano and harvesting the leaves, you need to store them in a dark, dry location to preserve the most flavor. Use glass bottles or airtight plastic containers. Light and air will degrade the flavor of the herb. Dry oregano will last for up to six months with best flavor and quality.How do you store oregano long term? ›
Storing In Water
Place the cut ends in a glass or jar filled with 1 to 1.5 inches of water. Make sure the stem ends remain underwater. To keep the moisture levels up around the leaves, cover the oregano with a plastic bag. Change the water daily to ensure they stay good until used.
Store tender herbs by snipping off the bases of the stems and removing any discolored or wilted leaves. Transfer them to a large Mason jar with an inch of water in the bottom. Seal the jar with the lid (if it fits), or cover the top of the jar with an overturned plastic bag sealed with a rubber band.Should you wash herbs before freezing? ›
To start, make sure your herbs are clean. Give herbs a good wash under cool water, then pat them dry. Spread clean, dry herbs (leaves and stems) in a single layer on a cooking tray ($13, Walmart), and put the pan in the freezer for about one hour, or until frozen.Does dried oregano repel bugs? ›
Oregano oil is considered as an excellent antiseptic and insect repellent. It has some active ingredients such as carvacrol, thymol and α-terpinene reported being highly effective in repelling mosquitoes (32, 33).
It can be found fresh, dried or as an oil, and all are said to have significant health benefits. Though typically used in small amounts, oregano packs in some important nutrients. Just one teaspoon of dried oregano can fulfill about 8% of your daily vitamin K needs (1).Can you eat too much fresh oregano? ›
Large amounts of oregano can upset the stomach. Oregano oil may cause rash when applied to the skin.Do you wash oregano before drying? ›
Drying is essential because it improves the texture and flavor of oregano. Before you dry your oregano, wash it by rinsing it under cold water if it's dirty. Then, you can dry your oregano by hanging it or setting it out on a tray. If you're in a hurry, you can also use a dehydrator or oven.Can you dry oregano in a brown paper bag? ›
After harvest, there are multiple ways to dry herbs and store them for later use. The old-fashioned way is to put an herb bundle in a paper bag and hang it upside down in a warm, dry place indoors. The bag keeps both dust and sunlight away from the herbs.Why do Mexicans use oregano? ›
Mexican oregano is a staple in Mexican cooking. It a popular seasoning for pozole, black beans, and lots of meat dishes. In Latin American kitchens, it is an all-purpose seasoning that can be found in just about any dish. In Mexico, it's even used as an herbal tea ingredient!Should I let my oregano flower? ›
When oregano plants flower it means that the plants have reached maturity and they're ready to produce seeds. You can remove the flowers to prevent the plants going to seed too quickly or allow the plants to bloom and enjoy the beautiful flowers in your garden.What is the antibiotic in oregano? ›
Oil of oregano contains two powerful compounds called carvacrol and thymol, both of which have been shown in studies to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.Is oregano good for high blood pressure? ›
Carvacrol in oregano makes it effective in the treatment of hypertension. It also helps reduce mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and your diastolic and systolic blood pressures. Oregano is a sodium-free food, so you can use it in place of salt in your meals while avoiding the side effects of sodium.
Oregano is an herb that's commonly used in cooking, especially in Mediterranean and Italian dishes. You can also brew oregano tea for drinking.Is oregano tea good for sleeping? ›
Is Oregano Tea Good for Sleeping? Thymol is a chemical found in oregano that helps to fight free radicals in the body and to relax your body. Therefore, it can have a soothing effect when ingested before bedtime and promote better sleep. This is best achieved alongside a planned sleep routine and regular exercise.
Oregano Essential Oil For Liver Detox
It is a remedy for many problems thanks to esters, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and monoterpenes. Monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes are very helpful in removing toxins from the body since they may also stimulate and calm the liver.
The important benefits oregano can bring to gut health are its strong antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Together, these can help cleanse the intestines and clear out any lingering bacterial infections, overgrowths, or fungal infections, which in turn can have wider benefits for health.Does oregano boost immune system? ›
Oil of oregano is a natural and traditional immune support. It also contributes to healthy digestion and respiratory function. By supplementing daily, you can reduce the occurrence of coughs, colds and flus, and keep you and your family in top form through the cold winter months.Can I eat fresh oregano leaves raw? ›
It's often too pungent to eat raw, so fresh oregano is best when used in the last 15 minutes of cooking, according to Newgent. Fresh oregano makes a great accompaniment to a pot of beans, a lemony marinade or a simple marinara sauce.How many times a day can you drink oregano tea? ›
For most, drinking up to two cups of oregano tea a day can provide an array of positive health benefits. However, it is important to remember that over-consumption may lead to digestive distress.How do you get bugs off herbs before drying? ›
Herbs that have been air-dried and seeds need to be treated to destroy any insects or insect eggs by heating the herbs or seeds at 160°F for 30 minutes or freezing at 0°F or lower at least 48 hours.Why do you dry herbs upside down? ›
Hanging upside down allows the essential oils to flow downward from the stems to the leaves. Herbs with a higher moisture content (basil, tarragon, mint, lemon balm) need to be dried more quickly, so they won't mold.What herbs should not be dried? ›
Delicate, leafy herbs like parsley, tarragon, and chives are always superior when fresh, and should typically be avoided when dried since they don't add much flavor to a dish.Does oregano grow back after cutting? ›
After the flower season is over, oregano goes dormant. That's your cue to cut back the herb. The plant will come back in the spring with new stems and leaves.What time of year is best to harvest oregano? ›
The flavor of oregano is most intense in mid-summer, just before it blooms, making this the best time to harvest leaves for drying. This herb is stronger dried than fresh. For a big harvest, cut the stems just above the plant's lowest set of leaves; this encourages new growth for the next cutting in late summer.
A majority of herbs are perennials throughout most of the United States. That means they come back year after year and usually get bigger or spread in territory each year. Some of our most-used cooking herbs are perennials, including sage, oregano and thyme.What does oregano tea do for kidneys? ›
Research has found that oregano has been traditionally used in the treatment of kidney stones. It acts as a diuretic which increases urine volume and reduces supersaturation of crystals and anti-spasmodic agent or relieves pain. Oregano increases the dissolution of kidney stones.What are the side effects of boiled oregano leaves? ›
Oregano may affect the body's ability to absorb copper, iron, and zinc. It may also lower blood sugar. People with an allergy to plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family, which include oregano, basil, lavender, mint, and sage, should take care, as they may also develop an allergic reaction to oregano.Is oregano water good for your hair? ›
Oregano oil contains antioxidants that promote healthier, shinier and smoother hair. Additionally, oregano oil stimulates blood flow in the scalp, thus strengthening hair for less breakage and better volume.
That means the correct ratio is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried oregano. The same goes for basil, dill, parsley, and any other herb that you fancy.How long does dried oregano last? ›
Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you. Although these seasonings may look attractive displayed over the stove, exposure to heat and moisture can make them lose flavor faster.What is dried oregano leaves used for? ›
Oregano contains chemicals that might help reduce cough. Oregano also might help with digestion and with fighting against some bacteria and viruses. People use oregano for wound healing, parasite infections, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.Is dried oregano more potent than fresh? ›
Have at it!” Just remember that the fresh leaves are way more potent than the dried stuff, so tread lightly. Next up: Sprinkling fresh and dried oregano on a slice of pizza.Should you cut back oregano? ›
Regular pruning is essential for the success of your oregano plant. Start pruning it once the foliage is full by early summer. If you're more interested in the leaves than the flowers, then remove flower buds during your pruning tasks. Otherwise, you should only prune overgrown branches and broken stems.Should you cut back oregano in the fall? ›
As a perennial plant, oregano grows back each year without needing to be replanted. To maximize its growth each year, it is wise to prune oregano plants near the end of the harvest season and before the first frost. Pruning throughout the summer can also result in fuller growth and a more plentiful harvest.
The part of an oregano plant we typically eat are the leaves, though the stems and flower buds are sometimes eaten as well. Oregano is primarily eaten dried, but fresh oregano leaves have a wonderful flavor, too.Can I drink fresh oregano? ›
Oregano is an herb that's commonly used in cooking, especially in Mediterranean and Italian dishes. You can also brew oregano tea for drinking.What's the difference between dried oregano and regular oregano? ›
Some herbs' flavor is also a bit different in dried form compared to fresh – not better or worse, just different. Oregano, for example, is sharper and more peppery fresh, while the dried stuff is flavorful but mild. Both are delicious, but they aren't identical.Should you let oregano flower? ›
When oregano plants flower it means that the plants have reached maturity and they're ready to produce seeds. You can remove the flowers to prevent the plants going to seed too quickly or allow the plants to bloom and enjoy the beautiful flowers in your garden.Can you drink dry oregano? ›
Oregano tea can easily be made at home using fresh or dry oregano leaves. You can also use oregano tea leaves. Add 3 teaspoons of dry oregano leaves into a tea infuser or teapot with an infuser/filter, add the boiling water and let it steep for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the filter and serve it warm.