Saturday, July 19, 2014

dried oregano

I have a sprawling, wild patch of oregano growing in my front yard. I don't remember when I planted it, though it must have been several years ago because now it is practically a small shrub. When the sprouts emerge in the spring, the leaves are fresh and charming, but by this point in the summer the stems are sagging and unwieldy, crowding out the surrounding plants. The bumblebees love it.

A week ago I casually mentioned that I should just cut back the whole plant and see what happens. Anya, my intrepid and loyal garden helper, persisted in reminding me about it all week: "Mom, remember what you said about the oregano?" Friday afternoon we found ourselves with a little free time, so we set to work. I clipped stem after stem and she piled the lot in her arms, and then we took the stack of clippings to the back deck.

At first I thought we should throw the lot on the compost pile, and then, when I looked at that pile of fresh, homegrown oregano, I decided to try and save some of it. After all, what's the harm in trying? So together, Anya and I sorted through the stems, pitching what looked too spotted and yellow, and saving what was nice and green. We dunked the stems in water to rinse, then laid them out to dry on a towel for an hour or so. (How I wish I had some pictures of her helping me do this! Next time, I promise...)

Once the stems were more or less dry (though not dried out), I piled them on a baking sheet and left them in the kitchen. Actually, I put them in the oven without turning it on, mostly because I didn't have room anywhere else. I read somewhere recently that you can dry herbs on the dashboard of your car, so this morning I put the baking sheet just under the windshield of my car, which is usually parked in the baking sun, and within two hours, my oregano looked like this:


It wasn't even that hot outside this morning, just nice and sunny. Those dried leaves just crumbled right off the stems. I crushed the leaves and put them in jars:

Voila! Oregano!

I have no idea if my homemade dried oregano will be any better than what you can buy from the store. There are approximately a zillion varieties of oregano and I'm sure some are better than others in terms of flavor, fresh and dried. (Note to self: research oregano varieties and grow the good stuff!) Still, it was fun, and this evening I put a bunch of it in some refried beans for dinner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you well know, I have watched a lot of cooking shows. All on public television because we don't have cable. Two are specifically Italian; each has a woman as the chief chef and only sometimes has a guest on. They like using fresh herbs, except for oregano which they both say is better dried. More flavor. One has the leaves still on the stem and sort of rolls it between her palms and little dried leaves fall off onto parchment paper which the then transfers to the dish.

So Keep that dried oregano.

-Chanterelle