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Someone explained to me that I could increase the surface area of my herbs significantly when grinding them in a mortar with a bit of salt. It is indeed quite easy to grind them down to a powder. I do have the impression though that my sauces get more bitter when using powdered oregano. Is there any basis to this? Am I just using to much oregano given its increased "aromatising efficiency"? Or am I indeed releasing some substance that would otherwise be locked in the leaves?

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Short: yes, you are releasing more substances. If you don't like the taste of them, stop grinding. I'll let somebody with more time to write the complete answer and get the rep. – rumtscho Aug 15 '12 at 16:05
up vote 7 down vote accepted

By grinding it, you are also increasing the surface are of the herb when it reaches the tongue, and you are exposing the raw/inner (bitter) flavors of the herb to the mouth. When cooking with it "un-ground", the cooking process extracts just the oils from the herb, and leaves the leaf in tact which does not taste unpleasant to the senses.

I would certainly use less of a ground herb, but my preference would be to leave it in it's natural dried state, and if you want more taste just increase the quantity. The only exception I have for this is when making rubs, where the fat of the meat (or oil for a bread dip) typically complements the bitter flavor of the ground herb.

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Actually, "where the fat of the meat (or oil for a bread dip) complements the bitter flavor of the ground herb". – Blessed Geek Aug 16 '12 at 1:09
That's a great point @Blessed Geek, I will update my answer accordingly – Chris Summers Aug 16 '12 at 8:39

I prefer to use a personal blender like the nutriblast that comes with a dry ingredients blade. As long as you remove the stems, it comes out soft and fluffy and aromatic.

If you're worried about the surface area of the herb being exposed, then steep the herb in a piece of cheesecloth, then remove and discard. In this way, the flavors are instilled into the product, but the herb itself isn't present in the dish.

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