How to harvest oregano – for the tastiest results

Discover how to harvest oregano and enjoy this punchy tasting herb

Oregano
(Image credit: Alamy)

Find out how to harvest oregano and you can spice up home-crafted dishes including all manner of Italian, Greek and Mexican favorites. Hailing originally from the Mediterranean, this sun-loving hairy leaved herb packs a strong peppery punch and, once dried, it is often found on pizzas, fajitas, stews. It also works well with grilled and roasted vegetables and fish. 

Fresh leaves and flowers can be made into a health boosting tea – said to soothe coughs, sour throats and stomach upsets – making it a staple in many herb gardens. Naturally high in thymol, oregano is widely known, and prized, for its antiseptic and germ-killing qualities and has long been used in products ranging from mouthwashes to industrial disinfectants. The essential oil has even been credited with successfully combatting the super-bug MRSA.

A perennial herb that loves well drained soil, it’s happy grown in the open ground or a pot. Producing fresh foliage every spring, these plants are pretty undemanding, just be sure not to over water or flood the roots as they can easily rot, and the plant will die off.

There are many different varieties of oregano to grow – each with their own subtle flavors and characteristics. Choose from the super earthy ‘Hot and Spicy’ with its strong peppery flavor, clump forming ‘Golden’ Oregano or Greek oregano with its deep earthy and savory notes.

‘Dried oregano is synonymous with pizza, but this herb can also be used fresh as well, particularly on tomato-based sauces, says kitchen gardener Jojo Tulloh in her book Freshly Picked. ‘It’s worth picking a large bunch in summer and hanging it up to dry in the kitchen to use over the winter as it’s one herb that only really releases its scent once dried.’

How to harvest oregano

Harvest stems little and often, over the late spring and summer months to promote new growth. 

Jackie Sommer of Purple Sage Farms (opens in new tab) explains more: ‘The tips of oregano should be harvested, about the length of your palm. Harvest the plant evenly to encourage healthier growth. Cut back flowers.’ 

Another sound tip from herb expert Jekka McVicar (opens in new tab) is to ‘cut back hard after flowering for a tight crown of new growth that will protect it from the rains.’

A deciduous and perennial herb, this plant will die back completely in winter before producing fresh, new growth each spring. Provided it is in a sunny spot with good drainage, oregano is a tough, wiry herb that’s pretty hard to kill off.

How do you pick oregano leaves so it keeps growing?

To pick oregano leaves so that it keeps growing, simply snip off the tips across the top of the plant (around 2 to 3ins long). If you want to remove whole stems, cut the stems cleanly with scissors just above a set of leaves or growth node. This will encourage the plant to branch and growing new, flavorful leaves.

When to harvest oregano for the best flavor?

The best time to harvest oregano is just before flowering, as the plant's energy and oils are concentrated in the foliage. Wait until the stems grown to 4-5 inches (10-12.5cm) high and cut – using sharp scissors – just above a set of leaves. The plant will reshoot from this point and form fresh side stems.

Jill Morgan
Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.