For the most flavorful experience, you must understand both how and when to harvest oregano. Harvesting oregano is best done in the morning after the dew has dried but while the leaves are still moist.
A hot, dry, sunny afternoon harvest can result in a more intense (and sometimes slightly bitter) flavor. Even if you intend to dry the leaves, pick the stems when they are upright and firm, rather than when they are wilting or water-stressed.
Harvesting and drying oregano allows for easy access and long-term herb storage. Learn how to pick and dry oregano for your spice cabinet or to share with friends.
How To Harvest Oregano Without Killing the Plant
When harvesting oregano, wait until the dew has dried in the morning. Warm mornings have the highest concentration of essential oils in herbs. When the herb is harvested just as flower buds form, the flavor is at its peak.
Remove the plant’s stems with scissors or garden shears. Reduce the height to just above a growth node or set of leaves. This will allow the plant to branch and produce more flavorful leaves from the cut area. If the stems have dust or mulch on them, lightly rinse them. Before drying the oregano, shake off any excess moisture.
The plant should be vibrantly green and healthy, with plump leaves and growth nodes. Each stem should have multiple sets of leaves but no fully developed flower buds at the stem tips. The best-tasting shoots are tender. Furthermore, if harvested earlier in the season, the plant regrows easily after cutting.
One of the concerns that many gardeners have when learning how to harvest oregano is that they will cut too much of the plant off at once. I assure you that no matter how much you take, this is nothing to be concerned about.
Oregano plants are extremely prolific and resilient, and even if you cut the entire plant down to the ground in the spring, it will recover in a matter of weeks and be just as beautiful and prolific as before. The only disadvantage of harvesting is that flowering is delayed.
However, do not remove all of the leaves. Leave at least one pair of leaves at the base of each stem. Repeat the harvesting process after the plant has had time to regrow its leaves. Don’t harvest oregano before it’s fully mature.
You should wait up to 8 weeks after the seeds germinate before cutting any leaves off. For the first harvest, your plant should be at least 6 inches tall.
Proper Tool: Use a sharp pair of shears at all times. The healthier the plant remains after the cut, which encourages new growth. It also keeps diseases at bay.
Here are the things you need to do after harvesting oregano or the after-care procedures:
- When you harvest the shoots, you remove the first set of developing flower buds, so the plant will need to develop another set when it regrows. This does not prevent the plant from flowering, but it does postpone it.
- If you feel the need to care for the plant after harvesting, you can fertilize it lightly and mulch it with compost. Use half the recommended rate of organic granular fertilizer on the bag. Don’t go too far.
- Make sure the plant gets enough water, but don’t overdo it. Oregano is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It prefers dry soils with good drainage.
You don’t want to encourage a lot of tender, succulent growth, which pests love. This is another tough plant. It does not require much attention. Oregano is an excellent companion plant because it attracts many small native bees and other beneficial insects such as soldier beetles, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and ladybugs.
How To Harvest Greek Oregano
Greek oregano tips, about the length of your palm, should be harvested. To promote healthier growth, harvest the plant evenly. Flowers should be pruned. After flowering, hard prune to form a tight crown of new growth that will protect it from rain.
To keep Greek oregano leaves around 2 to 3 inches long, simply snip off the tips across the top of the plant. Remove entire stems by carefully cutting them just above a set of leaves or a growth node with scissors. This encourages branching and the growth of new, flavorful leaves.
Trim on a regular basis to promote bushy growth rather than sprawling. Pinching back the plant as buds form will extend the tastiest harvest while also encouraging bushy growth because the leaves have the best flavor just before flowering.
Leaves can be harvested whenever the plants are at least six inches tall, which should be around 45 days after planting. Harvest as needed throughout the season, or gather a large amount at once for drying.
Choose a stem at least six inches long and cut about two-thirds of the way down, just before a set of leaf nodes, to harvest small amounts for immediate use. Keep about a third of the leaves on each stem you cut intact.
To harvest more, cut the plant back to a few inches from the ground, leaving at least two to three inches of stem and leaves on the plant to allow it to recover.
Each stem should be cut about a quarter inch above a set of leaf nodes. As the plant recovers and grows new growth, it will branch out and become bushier. Harvest leaves liberally for drying because they shrink to about a third of their fresh size as they dry.
How To Harvest Italian Oregano
When the plant’s pretty stems are at least 4 inches long, the leaves of Italian oregano are ready for harvesting fresh and drying; cut the stem to leave an inch or so for re-growth. Italian oregano grows 12 to 18 inches tall and spreads nearly as wide as the ground cover.
Tiny pink flowers will appear late in the summer if stems are allowed to grow longer. However, for the best flavor, harvest Italian oregano leaves before the flowers appear. When possible, harvest early in the morning.
How To Harvest Fresh Oregano
How to harvest oregano for fresh use and how to harvest oregano for drying are very similar. Oregano plant new growth is surprisingly prolific, especially on an established plant, and the main difference is the amount of herb you cut from the plant.
Tender oregano sprig tips are high in essential oils and offer the most intense flavor for fresh use. Because the flavor concentrates when the leaves are dried, using oregano fresh means the flavor is much more subtle. You want to harvest the young, fresh tips for fresh use.
Fresh oregano does not last long, so only cut what you need for that day’s recipe. Pinch or cut off the fresh stem tips with your cutting tool or even your thumb and forefinger. For fresh use, the top two to three inches of each stem have the best flavor.
If you only need the leaves and won’t be drying your oregano in bunches, just grab the stem about two-thirds of the way down the plant’s length and run your fingers along it. The only thing left to do is clip the stem that is now leafless once the leaves have gathered in your hand.
Knowing when and how to harvest oregano isn’t difficult, but it is essential to successfully grow and enjoy this flavorful herb.