Monday, December 3, 2012

Theory About Oregano

How to prepare oregano
I have a theory.
Disclaimer: it is a Nicole-Theory. My family is familiar with this disclaimer, but since you are not, I will explain. It is simply a theory I come up with, because it seems to make perfect sense to me, and I have no opposing evidence. I don't always have any evidence to begin with; often it's just an idea that has popped into my head that I like, and therefore hang on to.
There. Now you, too, know about Nicole-Theories. Don't you feel included?

So my theory is that oregano must be considered a weed somewhere.

This spring, we purchased a few herb starter-plants. 2 parsley, 1 sage, 1 oregano, 1 basil. They were all pretty healthy-looking except for the oregano. It was kindof Charlie-Brown. 
We my husband planted them all, and we my husband split the oregano into two, and planted it in two spots. We didn't really expect it to survive. The rest we were ok with, but this we didn't have a lot of faith in.

We were wrong.
It grew, and it grew... I feel like Dr. Seuss. It grew and it grew and it grew.
I even harvested more than I felt was appropriate because I thought maybe I would contain it somehow. 

I was wrong again.
It's ok though, we'll just have plenty of oregano.

Here's some tips we figured out that makes growing/harvesting/using it easier.
  • One plant is plenty. Really.
  • Harvest out of the middle of the plant, the sprouts that are growing up tall but don't have anywhere to root themselves.
  • Also harvest the edges, where it is growing out of the zone. Ours is in a raised garden, but ours came with the house, and is built up by rocks. I cut off the sprigs that hung over the edges, and, again, had nowhere to root themselves.
  • Pluck the leaves off before it is dried. This is much easier. You can get most of them off by dragging pinched fingers from the top to bottom of each sprig. Any that got past you can be plucked manually.
  • Now you can either lay them out flat on a cookie sheet (We use the pizza pans with holes in them, and they are great, but a regular cookie sheet will be fine too.) or use them right away.
TIP: if using herbs in a soup, put dry herbs in toward the end, as they will tend to break down the llonger they cook. Put fresh herbs in toward the beginning, especially great for slow-cooker recipes, as when fresh herbs cook for a while, more flavor is released.

I use my little Braun food chopper with fresh and with dried herbs. It works perfect, and is much faster and much less messy than crushing the herbs by hand.

Here's where a little ingenuity comes in. Originally I bought some spice containers at our local Spice Merchant. I love that store, and it was the perfect excuse reason to go in. I may or may not have made a detour over by the flavored coffees, specialty tea blends and rows of delightful Torani syrup.

The spice containers weren't expensive, especially compared to others I found at the store. I really wanted ones with a shaker/spoon opening. Also ones that were air-tight. I may have organized my spice cabinet, (post for another time), but still get the occasional avalanche. I have thought about getting salt/pepper shakers, but decided against it for that reason.

But back to my Nicole-Theory about Oregano being a weed. When we first started harvesting our herbs this spring, we had just emptied out the oregano from the store, so we just used that container. It is full now. In fact it was full long before the growing season was over. (Who am I kidding? I told you that stuff was a weed somewhere... you can't kill it. It has gotten down below freezing several times this fall/winter, and the stuff is still kickin. Again, cool- we won't run out of oregano any time soon, but still...)

 Instead of going and continuing to buy more shakers at the Spice Merchant, I decided to start saving the shakers from other spices and such as they ran out. We now have one for the basil (already labeled... how cool is that?) next summer when we get more of that. And a bigger shaker, the parmesan container. We have emptied two of those (what can I say? We love us some Italian food!) and I've stuck them in the dishwasher and saved them for our herbs. 

Because I don't think we'll be making our own parmesan cheese anytime soon, this is a great system for me. Empty parmesan, dishwasher it, and put our abundance of oregano in it. No more trips into town to the Spice Merchant. Oh, wait. I liked the excuse of going there. We may have to re-think this. *grin*

Contrast in colors. Green is garden oregano.
Just as a side note: When we first dumped the oregano into the empty container from the store, there was actually a teensy bit left in the bottom. Look, though at the contrast between the colors! Just looking at that browny dull stuff from the store makes me never want to buy it anymore, and always just use garden-oregano. In this pic it was hand crushed, so didn't get as small as when I use the Braun.

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