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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
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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
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