In Greek mythology, it is said that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was the one who planted the first oregano as a symbol of happiness and gave it the fragrance it has today.
Oregano is an aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean and is of course widely used in all the cuisine of that area, although it has also spread throughout the world.
In its natural state, its aroma is fragrant, slightly spicy, and with a bitter touch, but in its dried state it is much better.
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What Does Dried Oregano Smell Like?
Oregano, unlike many other aromatic plants, tastes and smells better dried than fresh. The drying process concentrates its aroma and flavor; warm, somewhat bitter, with notes of pine, and pepper.
What Is Dried Oregano Used For?
On its own, this aromatic herb has multiple uses, from home remedies to fragrances in the form of perfumes and essential oils.
However, its most popular use is in gastronomy, where oregano leaves are used as a condiment both dried and fresh, although dried oregano has much more flavor and aroma.
Generally, the dried leaves are added at the end of cooking sauces or just before eating, as the heat releases the essential oils that contain the aromas.
It is also used in long-cooking sauces where its distinctive flavor has time to mature and develop, as in some tomato sauces.
Oregano is often used in many dishes throughout the Mediterranean but one of the best known is perhaps the Italian Bolognese sauce since Italy is one of the countries that most uses this spice, and we can find it seasoning pasta dishes with tomato or cheese, such as lasagna or pizza.
The food that best compliments oregano is undoubtedly the tomato, but it is perfect to add it to dishes with anchovies, capers, chicken, eggplants, fresh cheeses with a strong flavor, garlic, olives, lamb, pork, yellow squash, stewed or baked potatoes, and zucchini.
Regardless of the ingredients that accompany it, dried oregano will always stand out for its stronger taste and smell. Even if it looks like a simple seasoning, a small amount can make a big difference.
Types Of Oregano
Beyond the Greek oregano of ancient mythology, there is a wide range of varieties found around the world. Usually named after their country of origin, the flavor variations range from the pungent and slightly bitter Italian oregano to the citrusy Mexican oregano that is the secret ingredient in my homemade taco seasoning recipe.
Can You Dry Your Own Oregano?
Now that you have seen the infinite number of uses it has, you may be wondering how to obtain this precious condiment in its dried form.
The procedure is quite simple, you just need to be patient and, of course, have an oregano plant.
You can also get fresh oregano in twigs in any supermarket, but the ideal is to buy or cut a potted plant, they are very easy to take care of and you will get more out of it.
Steps for Drying Oregano At Home
If you already have an oregano plant in your garden, the best time to harvest it is in summer, when the plant is in full bloom. It is at that time when its aroma and flavor are much more intense.
Harvesting the oregano
Before cutting the oregano it is advisable to stop watering the plant for five or six days, this helps the aromas to be much more concentrated.
Choose the best branches, which do not have dry leaves or are damaged, and with pruning shears cut them about four centimeters from the ground. This way the plant will be able to sprout again and you will always have oregano at hand.
Wash the oregano sprigs
The first thing you should do is wash the oregano sprigs under cold water to remove the remains of soil that may have. Once clean, remove the excess of moisture. If you have a lettuce spinner you can drain them there, if not it is enough to dry them carefully with a paper towel.
Once you have removed all the moisture from the oregano sprigs you can start the drying process. There are different ways to do it at home without the need for a dehydrator.
Hanging the twigs with thread
This is the most traditional way of drying aromatic herbs. To do this you have to prepare a bouquet with the sprigs of oregano and tie them well by the stem leaving a long piece of thread. Then place the bouquet upside down in a dry and preferably dark place.
If you do not have a dark place you can cover the bouquet with a sheet of newspaper to protect it from the light.
After about 10 days the oregano will be dry, you only have to check that the leaves retain their color, their aroma and are crisp to the touch.
On a rack
Another way to dry it is to cover a kitchen rack with kitchen paper and place the sprigs of oregano separated from each other. Then put the rack in a place where there is ventilation and turn them over daily so that they dry evenly.
In the oven
A very quick way to dry oregano is to dry it in the oven. The method is very simple, but you must be careful not to let it burn.
Put parchment paper on the baking tray and spread the oregano sprigs on top. Place it in the oven at 80°C for about 15 minutes, then turn it over and keep it in the oven for another 15 minutes.
After this time it will be dry. Then let it cool down to room temperature.
How To Preserve The Dried Oregano?
Once you have the oregano well dehydrated, separate the leaves from the stems and check that no moisture remains.
Then you only have to place it in a glass container with a hermetic seal or a vacuum-sealed zip-lock and store it in the pantry protected from humidity and light until ready to eat.
And while you can put it in the freezer, I guarantee if you leave it out, you will use it all up.
The Wonderful Aroma Of Oregano
Dried oregano is a blessing for the kitchen, and I could talk much about its other benefits. Beyond that, I hope these tips will help you to get all the “juice” out of your oregano leaves and enjoy their enticing aroma.
Who would have thought that when they are dry, they give off the most powerful scent? Nature…