I have five oregano plants in my herb garden. Each of the five would like to multiply, but I've discovered that five oregano plants provide enough oregano to supply all of the collar counties around Chicago, so I'm pretty ruthless about ripping out new starts.
Our weather is running at least two weeks early in terms of temperature this year, so it was time to trim back the oregano. A master gardener who specializes in herbs told me that you can cut back a third of a plant at a time and still have a viable plant. A few years ago I asked Frankie to trim back the oregano and she took it back to a mound about three inches tall and the plant was actually healthier for the haircut. In all fairness, I had not trimmed for the previous two years, so the plants really needed that cleanup.
Thursday morning, we cut back chives, oregano and catnip when we worked in the herb garden. I have an over-abundance of oregano and catnip. I put together fifteen large bunches of the oregano and took them to share with the members of my exercise class. I surfed for some information on how to use fresh oregano, and shared that along with several recipes.
In addition to what I've already given away, I have TWENTY-TWO bunches of oregano and ten bunches of catnip. They are bundled and tied to an old-fashioned wooden drying rack that's sitting in my dining room. The entire house has an Italian smell to it.
If you wish to dry oregano, tie the stems together and hang them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place. You can store the branches of dried oregano in a paper bag, in a dark place, and then crumble the leaves off as you need them. Storing whole branches helps to keep the volatile oils intact. If you don't have the space, you can crumble the oregano once it's fully dried and then store it in a glass jar out of sunlight.
If you are fortunate to have fresh oregano, try toasting the leaves lightly in a pan and add them to your favorite chili or taco recipe. You can sprinkle oregano leaves over feta, drizzle with olive oil and serve with olives. You could grill slices of provolone cheese that have been sprinkled with oregano. When the cheese is warmed and starts to melt, spread it on crusty fresh bread. Or, you can add fresh oregano to salsa, or to sautéed zucchini and onions.
Here's a link to a recipe for fingerling potatoes with Oregano Pesto that I'll be trying this summer. Get out there and harvest your oregano, or find a friend who will share. There are loads of great recipes that use oregano!