Grow Your Own Rosemary

Rosemary looks beautiful in the garden, in the ground or in a pretty pot. In summer, its needle-shaped green leaves are topped by tiny blooms in shades of lavender to purple — and some even bloom pink.

| December 2004/January 2005

A classic culinary herb, rosemary makes a great dry rub ingredient for meats, brings out the savory flavor highlights of beans and lentils, gives flavor momentum to breads, and pairs beautifully with lemon in sweet cakes and custards.

Rosemary imparts a refreshing, resinous flavor to a variety of foods, savory and sweet, as well as to herbal teas. It contains so many antioxidants that it has historically been used as a meat preservative. When paired with fresh pork, poultry, lamb or even beef, it makes an ideal dry rub ingredient. Mix a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary with 2 tablespoons of flour, add a bit of salt and pepper, and rub the mixture onto meats before they are roasted. When you’re roasting a whole chicken, just stick a few clipped sprigs into the cavity.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) also can transform plain roasted potatoes. Wash and quarter the potatoes, toss them with a tablespoon each of olive oil and fresh rosemary, add salt and pepper to taste, and roast until done. A pinch or two of rosemary in a pot of beans or lentils brings out savory flavor highlights, and a sprinkling of minced rosemary mixed with mustard makes a fantastic sandwich spread. It’s best to use rosemary in moderation; in large amounts, it can irritate the stomach.

Another favorite use is to top off focaccia, a flat yeast bread, with rosemary and garlic, one of rosemary’s classic culinary partners. Small amounts of rosemary also can be added to cakes or custards, where its flavor pairs beautifully with another good culinary companion, lemon.

Long known as the herb of remembrance, rosemary has the ability to stimulate the brain as well as the taste buds. Though no hard evidence exists that using rosemary-scented hair-care products will make you smarter, one of the reasons the herb is included in many such items is because of its brain-enhancing properties. You can utilize these properties, too, simply by pinching a sprig into tiny pieces and keeping them in a little bowl on your desk. Even if it does not sharpen your wit, it will certainly make your office more inviting.

Mix dried rosemary into any potpourri, and for a refreshing bath, add dried or fresh rosemary leaves to a bath bag, which you can rig up easily by placing the rosemary in a coffee filter tied with a rubber band. Rosemary contains antioxidants that may help relieve arthritic inflammation and prevent the formation of tumors. To treat stress, massage therapists often use a mixture of 3 drops rosemary essential oil in 1 tablespoon of unscented massage oil. And rosemary can be woven into herbal wreaths and tucked into letters destined for loved ones, too.

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