How to preserve Italian oregano

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how to preserve Italian oregano” and discuss the different methods used to preserve Italian oregano.

How to preserve Italian oregano

Italian oregano is preserved by: 

  • Refrigerating 
  • Freezing
  • Drying 

Italian oregano is a herb grown by crossing Oregano and Marjoram. Italian oregano is a seasoning herb and is mostly used in classic Italian dishes such as pizzas and pasta sauces.

The essential oil composition of oregano, which contains predominant quantities of carvacrol and thymol, with strong antioxidant capacity, is responsible for its inhibitions of microbial and fungal toxin production and the anti inflammatory, analgesic, antiarthritic, antiallergic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, cardioprotective, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective properties (1).

How to refrigerate italian oregano for preservation

Fresh Italian oregano can be preserved for a short period by refrigerating. For most herbs, storage at 0°C (32°F) is required to optimize quality and storage life. Expected shelf-life is 3 weeks at 0°C (32°F) and 2 weeks at 5°C (41°F) (2).

  • Wash the oregano sprigs in clean water.
  • Remove the excess water by using a salad spinner or paper towels.
  • Wrap the oregano sprigs in a damp towel.
  • Place the towel inside a plastic bag or an airtight container.
  • Label and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

An alternate way to refrigerate Italian oregano is to place the oregano stems in water.

To refrigerate Italian oregano by immersing stems in water:

  • Do not wash the oregano beforehand.
  • Trim off a small section of the oregano stems.
  • Immerse the oregano stems in a glass of water so that the leaves stand upright.
  • Cover the leaves with a plastic bag.
  • Place it in the refrigerator.
  • Replace the water in the glass every 2 days to prevent microbial growth.

The above method allows Italian oregano to be stored for about 2 weeks and they must be washed before being in a recipe.

How to freeze italian oregano for preservation

Freezing properly will preserve Italian oregano for about 1 year. Freeze damage in fresh herbs will appear as darkened translucent or water-soaked areas which will deteriorate rapidly after thawing. Therefore, frozen herbs can work for cooking, though they are usually not suitable for garnish as they become limp when thawed (2).

There are quite a few ways to freeze Italian oregano. You can freeze whole Italian oregano stalks, chop or mince them up, or even freeze them in ice cube trays with water. Chopped Italian oregano can also be mixed with other herbs of choice and then frozen.

Before freezing, wash the oregano in clean water blot dry using paper towels.

To freeze Italian oregano leaves: 

  • You can either freeze with or without the stems.
  • Place the leaves inside a ziplock bag and squeeze out all the air. Leaves can be chopped or minced into a desired size at this point but whole leaves will retain more flavor. 
  • Seal, label, and place the bag in the freezer.

To freeze Italian oregano leaves in an ice cube tray:

  • Remove the Italian oregano leaves from the stems.
  • Place a few Italian leaves inside each cubicle of the ice cube tray and top up with water. Be sure to use as little water as possible. 
  • Chopped or minced oregano can also be instead of whole leaves.
  • Place the tray in the freezer until all the cubes are frozen.
  • Transfer the frozen cubes into a ziplock bag.
  • Squeeze out the air, seal, label, and return it to the freezer.

How to dry italian oregano for preservation

Italian oregano preserves well with drying. In fact, drying improves both the texture and flavor of oregano and it is the most common way to preserve Italian oregano. Most recipes call for dried oregano flakes.

Although sun drying is a good option for drying many vegetables, oregano should not be sun dried. As direct exposure to sun can be rather dangerous, drying should take place in shade by spreading the harvested material in thin coats and applying ventilation of dry air (1).

Drying will preserve Italian oregano for about a year.

There are several methods to dry Italian oregano. 

Italian oregano can be dried by:

  • Air-drying
  • Using a food dehydrator
  • Using an oven
  • Using a microwave

Dried Italian oregano must always be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place away from moisture.

An alternative form of artificial drying that is well used in the food industry for effective drying of aromatic and medicinal plants is freeze drying known as lyophilization. The product is cooled and then dried by sublimation of ice in a vacuum. The advantage of this method is the stability of the plant material properties (1).

How to prepare oregano for drying

  • Remove brown and damaged leaves from the oregano stalks.
  • Wash the oregano stalks in clean water.
  • Blot dry using paper towels.

How to dry Italian oregano by air-drying

  • Gather a few stalks of Italian oregano and tie them together with twine.
  • Place them inside a perforated paper bag.
  • Hang them to dry in a well-ventilated room. 
  • Make sure that the plants will not be exposed to sunlight

Air-drying will take about 2 weeks depending on the temperature and humidity of the surroundings.

How to dry Italian oregano by using a food-dehydrator

Using a food dehydrator is the most efficient way to dry Italian oregano.

  • Spread the oregano leaves on the dehydrator tray.
  • Set the dehydrator to the lowest setting.
  • Dehydrate for about 4 hours until the leaves are dry and crisp.

How to dry Italian oregano using an oven

The drying method plays a major role for producing a high-quality product. During the drying process, drying temperatures 30-40 °C (85-105 °F) should not be exceeded as they negatively affect the oil content (1).

  • Preheat the oven to 200-degree Fahrenheit. Preheat the oven to 100 °F
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Spread the oregano leaves on the tray.
  • Place a parchment paper over the first layer of oregano leaves.
  • Spread another layer of oregano leaves over the first one.
  • Continue until you have about 5 layers.
  • Place the tray in the oven. 
  • Leave the oven door slightly open.
  • Stir the leaves every 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven after 15 minutes.
  • Leave the oregano leaves in the oven until they have cooled down to room temperature.

How to dry Italian oregano by microwaving

  • Line a microwave-safe tray with 2 layers of paper towels.
  • Spread a single layer of oregano leaves on the paper towels.
  • Cover the oregano with another layer of paper towels.
  • Microwave for 1 minute at high power and then for 20-second bursts until the leaves are completely dry

Other FAQs about Herbs that you may be interested in.

How to counteract too much thyme in food?

What is the substitution for oregano?

Can you eat cooked bay leaves?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how to preserve Italian oregano” and discussed the different methods used to preserve Italian oregano.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

References

  1. Skoufogianni, Elpiniki, Alexandra D. Solomou, and Nicholaos G. Danalatos. Ecology, cultivation and utilization of the aromatic Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare L.): A review. Not Botanic Horti Agro Cluj-Napoca, 2019, 47, 545-552. 
  2. Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. Herbs. Fresh culinary. Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. 2002. University of California, Davis.

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.