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Rosemary, scientifically known as Rosmarinus officinalis, is a fragrant evergreen woody herb with small needle-like leaves that finds popular use in cooking. The leaves of this herb range from 2 to 4 cm in length and 2 to 5 mm in breadth. The leaves of this herb are densely covered with short woolly hair and have a green surface upside with a white surface below. The leaves have lemony, bittersweet flavor with a mildly piney smell. Rosemary flowers can come in different colors like pink, white, blue or purple. Some of the popular rosemary dishes are rosemary shortbread, rosemary chicken with potatoes and rosemary lamb shanks.

History of Rosemary

The usage of the rosemary herb dates back to the 500 B.C, when the herb found an extensive use in the kitchens as well as the medicinal fields. Medicinal rosemary recipes were very popular in Roman and Greek culture. Rosemary was used for making Hungary Water for the Queen of Hungary to treat gout and bringing back vitality to paralyzed limbs. The herb also has an old reputation of being an excellent memory enhancer and to this day it is used as a symbol of remembrance in Australia and Europe. In the Middle Ages, the herb become quite popular in wedding ceremonies, where the bride would wear a rosemary headpiece. Soon rosemary also began to be looked upon as love charm and as a good omen for family unions.

Culinary Uses of Rosemary

The versatile, aromatic properties of Rosemary make it a popular addition to a wide variety of foods. Rosemary dishes can range from soups, vegetable platters, meat (most notably lamb dishes) and eggs to stuffings, desserts, dressings and fruit salads. The spiky leaves of the herb are first crushed or minced before being used in the different rosemary dishes. In most rosemary recipes, this aromatic herb is sprinkled at the end, as a garnish. Often it is used with seasoning mix spices for seasoning roasted meats and barbequed dishes. The foods which best pair up with rosemary are tomatoes, peas, spinach, squash, mushrooms, lentils, eggs, chives, chervil, thyme, bay and parsley. Even the flowers of the herb can be dried and crushed to be used as garnish in the different rosemary dishes. Sometimes, rosemary tisanes are used in flavoring foods.

Popular Rosemary Dishes

Some of the popular rosemary dishes are rosemary shortbread, lemon-rosemary sauce, rosemary and garlic roast, rosemary lamb shanks and Italian beef stew with rosemary. The rosemary shortbread is baked item prepared with the chopped fresh herb. The garlic roast and lamb shanks use finely chopped fresh or dried rosemary. In the Italian beef stew, usually fresh sprigs of the herb are used. The lemon sauce uses crumbled rosemary.

Cuisines Using Rosemary Recipes

Rosemary dishes are quite popular in the Mediterranean cuisine, where this astringent herb is used in the fresh or dried forms for complementing a variety of dishes. In Italian cuisine, rosemary dishes mostly comprise seafood items, stews, salad dressing and lamp recipes. The British like to use the herb in crunchy vegetable dishes like crunchy roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic. In American cuisine, rosemary recipes range from baked goods to appetizers to side dishes.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Rosemary Dishes

When using fresh rosemary in soups, bouillons, stews and sauces, the herb should be wrapped in a bouquet garni. When using dried rosemary herbs, it should be wrapped in cheesecloth and removed after the cooking is complete. Alternately, the leaves of the herb can be crushed to fine out the sharp leaves. For cooking skewered meat or fish rosemary dishes, fresh sprigs should be tossed on the barbeque coals. For salads, the blue rosemary flowers work the best.

Nutritive Value of Rosemary

Rosemary has a high content of calcium, vitamin B6 and iron. The essential oil of this herb also contains camphor, pinene, eucalyptol and borneol. The herb is popularly used in rheumatic ointments and liniments for a soothing effect. Rosemary has sedative, stomach relieving, antispasmodic, diuretic, antiseptic and aromatic properties, which makes this herb beneficial in treating neuralgia and fatigue. However, people with sensitive skin may suffer from skin irritations if they use cosmetics containing rosemary oils. The quinone content in rosemary makes it anti-carcinogenic. Rosemary is considered effective in treating headache, debility depression and flatulent dyspepsia, sciatica, neuralgia, muscular pain, premature baldness.

Rosemary Buying and Storing Tips

Fresh rosemary can be stored in a glass of water or inside a plastic bag inside the refrigerator. To store dry rosemary, the dried leaves should be stripped off from the stem and stored in a sealed plastic bag or an airtight container, which should be kept away from light in a cool, dry place to preserve the fragrance.

Non- Food Uses of Rosemary

Rosemary is used in perfumes, toiletries and cosmetics. The herb is also used in insect repellants. Rosemary is also used as a food preservative, especially in preserving meats and is considered safer than BHT and BHA.

Rosemary Trivia

It is believed that if a family’s garden has a dense growth of rosemary bushes, then the household of that family is headed by a woman.