We learned something the other night about oregano that the rest of you probably know, namely that not all oregano is the same. My wife made a batch of tomato sauce and complained that it was bitter. She is no great fan of oregano to begin with, but she is a great fan of David Waltuck's book of Staff Meals at Chanterelle. The recipe called for a large amount of oregano, which she added (dried). We went through the list of ingredients to see what might have caused the bitterness by recreating the red sauce, then adding wine, oregano, thyme, or basil to small batches. It seemed to incriminate the oregano, which had been opened for only a few weeks.
The next night we spoke with some foodie friends, who thought it might be that we had used Greek oregano, which, they said, becomes bitter with prolonged cooking. Their preference is for Italian oregano, which they grow themselves, harvesting only the buds and drying them for the rest of the year.
Sure enough, when we checked it out, there are a number of species: Greek (Oreganum onites), Italian (O. O. heracleoticum), Syrian, Turkish, Cuban, Mexican--many of which aren't even in the same family.
So..... my question is about a source for Italian oregano instead of having to wait for our friends garden next summer...! First, are they correct, or can the problem be circumvented by adding the herbs just before finishing the cooking of the sauce? If the issue is about the species of oregano, where can I find a reliable online source of Italian oregano?
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