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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Drying Oregano

I love using herbs when cooking so I learned years ago that the best way to get fresh herbs was to grow them myself.  Just like fresh fruits and vegetables picked moments before preparing, fresh herbs cut just before going into whatever is cooking really makes a difference.  The flavour is fresh and vibrant even more intense that fresh cut herbs in the grocery store that may have be cut two or three days before you buy them.  I grow a wide range of herbs both indoors and outdoors.  There were 40 different herbs growing in my last garden.  This garden's herb bed has not reached that stage yet but it is getting close and if we stay here will exceed that. 

fresh cut oregano
Last year I planted two common oregano plants that obviously have not read the square foot gardening manual as this year they are taking up about 2 sq. feet each!  I check my garden beds and containers at least twice daily but quite often am out cutting product for meals so I immediately noticed the fungus gnats on the oregano.  They are a common pest of oregano that does minimal damage.  At the same time I noticed signs of other damage so decided to trim the oregano good before moving to any stronger treatment.  I ended up with a turkey platter piled as high as a turkey of oregano clippings to be cleaned and dried with the exception of a few pieces that were popped into water for rooting.  These will be later planted for growing indoors.

Small insects can hide in herbs so it is important to wash them well under running water that will wash the insects off.  Once washed I give each stem a good flick of the wrist to knock off any insects that might have missed the wash.  Then I place the stems on thick bath towel and blot dry before placing the stems on wire drying racks to be dried in my oven that has a specific, adjustable temperature drying cycle.  

dried oregano
I ended up with 750 ml of dried oregano as pictured.  Please note the difference in colour between the smaller jar and the larger jar.  The reason for this is the temperature at which the oregano was dried.  The larger jar was dried at 110ºF whereas the smaller jar was dried at 140ºF.  While both have excellent oregano flavour the larger jar has nicer colouration and a fresher oregano flavour.  The smaller jar has a deeper but a bit more intense borderline bitter flavour.  The oregano dried at the higher temperature is ok for cooking however oregano dried at a lower temperature is considerably better both in terms of colour and flavour.

Herbs should always be dried at the lowest possible setting.  Unfortunately, lower cost dehydrators will dry in the 140ºF range with no possibility of adjustment.  If you have one of these dehydrators you would get better results by hanging the herbs to dry in a warm, dry, dark place.  Ovens with special adjustable dehydrating cycles and temperature controlled dehydrators should be set to 110ºF for drying herbs.  Tender herbs like basil should only be air dried or frozen as heat drying removes some of the essential oils. 

Growing your own herbs gives you the opportunity to use both fresh and preserve for winter use.  I already have enough oregano dried  for winter storage just with the first cutting.  We have almost 4 months left in the growing season here so there will be a lot more oregano to come.  What a lot of home growers don't realize about herbs is the more you cut them the more they reward you with new growth.  So cut those herbs!  Use what you can fresh with each cutting then dry or freeze the rest.

8 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

I don't use a lot of herbs. My hubby is pretty fussy about his food, and my mom never used herbs in her cooking, so I never learned how to use them.

Sometimes I'll use herbs as listed in a recipe, but because I don't use them regularly, the foods often taste unusual or something and he often doesn't like them. lol.

But this was still interesting. Thanks for this! :)

Anonymous said...

I usually dry my herbs the good old fashioned way...tied up! Is there an advantage to drying in the oven to air drying, I wonder?

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Alterity Button Jewelry and thanks for visiting :) Oven drying herbs shortens the drying period something that is quite desirable in humid areas where humidity can cause molding problems when air drying herb. What can happen with air drying is the mold sets in just before the herbs are finished drying meaning the whole bundle is unusable.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Linda :) Learning to use herbs both fresh and dried in cooking is quite rewarding though the flavours they enrich your food with. They are a great way to help reduce the use of salt in your cooking. Hmm, I think I just have found the topic for next Monday's Frugal Kitchens 101.

LindaG said...

I look forward to it! :)

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Cia and thanks for visiting :) You are quite welcome. I'm glad you found the information for drying oregano helpful. Oregano seems to be liking this year's growing season as others have been reporting how well it is growing too.

Kim said...

Do you think cilantro would dry well? I don't think I have ever seen dried cilantro - but that it the only thing growing out of control in my garden at the moment.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Kim :) Cilantro can be dried either at a low temperature or by hanging similar to parsley.