This crazy wintery weather in May has kept me from planting most of my summer garden just yet though I did finally plant a few tomatoes and peppers a few days ago, but my herbs are growing gangbusters and needing to be harvested. I cut back my oregano the other day because it was almost ready to flower so I thought I would share how I go about drying it. I have an Excalibur food dehydrator and I love to use this to dry my herbs. You can bundle and hang herbs to dry, but I always feel like they are getting dusty and I notice that they often turn a sort of a grey color. Drying them in the dehydrator right after picking helps them to keep their color and I think the flavor is better too.
First I soak them in a sink full of cold water for a few minutes to wash off any garden dirt or bugs that may have hitched a ride on the foliage. Then I pat them dry with a towel and lay them out on the trays in a single layer. My dehydrator holds 9 trays, but the Oregano branches were quite thick so I left space between them and only used 4 trays at a time. I set the temperature to 95 degrees and left it on over night. After about 12 hours the leaves were dry to the touch and slightly crunchy. They come off the stem easily at this point. The aroma was absolutely wonderful, too!
I use a lipped cookie sheet and strip all the leaves off the stems then packed it loosely in canning jars. I am planning to make a nice herb blend with these to give as Christmas gifts and use in my own cooking, of course. Some fennel seeds and basil added to this would make a great Italian herb mix for pasta and pizza. I always grow several different basils and blend them and they will go nicely with this oregano.
I also used this oregano fresh off the stem right from the garden in a pasta sauce I was making and that is the best way to use it!