Rosemary, a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean, is a bush that has needle-like leaves and flowers that are white, blue, purple or pink. Being in the family of herbs, it’s a culinary condiment with potential health benefits. It has been used for cooking purposes since at least 500 B.C.
In Greek mythology, rosemary has been said to drape around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea. Another legend says that the Virgin Mary spread her cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush while she was resting, so the shrub became known as the “Rose of Mary.”
There’s no herb with the flavor of rosemary. It has a slightly minty, peppery, sage-like, balsamic taste with a bitter, woody aftertaste. Unlike more fragile herbs, rosemary holds up extremely well to heat and prolonged cooking times. It can be added at the beginning of cooking to stews and braises for extra flavor. The longer the rosemary is cooked in liquid, the stronger the flavor it gives off.
Here are some of the top ways rosemary is used:
Rosemary tea is a restorative herbal tea made with just boiling water and fresh rosemary. Simply add a few freshly picked sprigs of the herb in a cup, add hot water, cover and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain away the herb, drink and enjoy. To balance the piney flavor, add a hint of fresh lemon juice and a little sweetener, like honey or agave.
Here are some of the benefits of rosemary tea to the body:
Digestive aid – Rosemary is a gas-relieving herb that’s helpful in calming an upset stomach. As a tonic, it can support the digestive system’s ability to digest large proteins like those found in meat, grain, and dairy. It can also aid in indigestion, heartburn, and low stomach acidity. Drinking a cup of rosemary tea just before you eat or right after will do a lot of good for those with gas, bloating, blood sugar issues, and pain in the digestive tract.
Headache solution – Rosemary can be used to ease headaches. A cup of rosemary tea has been known to be equivalent to taking an aspirin for minor pains and aches.
Brain booster – Rosemary is known as the “herb of remembrance.” Enjoying a cup of rosemary tea can help boost mental capacity. It has been also shown to reduce anxiety, improve concentration, and boost mood. Both smelling and drinking rosemary tea can offer these benefits. Compounds in rosemary tea has been found to protect the health of the brain, both from injury and impairment from neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
Homemade hair treatment
Also known for its abilities to regrow and thicken hair, rosemary tea can be also used as a homemade hair treatment if you’re struggling with thinning hair.
Combine half a cup of dried rosemary and olive oil in a saucepan. Place it over medium heat until it’s warm, and remove from heat. Let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture and coat your hair with it. Cover your hair with a shower cap and leave it on for 20 minutes. Rinse with water, and wash it with shampoo.
Infuse your salt with rosemary to enhance the flavor of your dishes. Pull the rosemary leaves from the stem and gather one cup. Add it to three cups of salt. Stir it all together and let it sit for approximately two weeks, covered. This creates an infused rosemary salt that can be used in different dishes.
Rosemary-infused olive oil
It’s a great idea to have a bottle of rosemary-infused olive oil in your kitchen. It’s a great ingredient for recipes like roasted chicken or baked potatoes, and it’s also great for cooking popcorn. It also makes a nice food gift.
Simply pour two cups of olive oil in a small pot and add ¼ cup of fresh rosemary leaves, with woody stems removed. Bring it to low heat for five to 10 minutes. Let it warm but don’t let it simmer. Turn off the heat and let the rosemary infuse in the oil for an hour. Strain the oil into a clean, dry glass jar or bottle. Cover it tightly and store at room temperature for up to one month.
Garlic and rosemary butter
Rosemary butter is an excellent topping for steak, vegetable butter, or bread spread. It’s also great add to baked potatoes or tossed with pasta.
Chop garlic and then mash it with mortar and pestle or a wide side of a chef’s knife. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of kosher salt. Add ½ teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves and blend it well. Add a stick of butter and mash it with a fork until it’s thoroughly blended. Put the butter on wax paper and shape it into a log. Wrap properly and refrigerate until chilled.
Since rosemary stems are tough, you can use them as skewers. When grilling chicken, like kabobs, use rosemary stems instead of barbeque sticks. These infuse flavor into the dish you’re grilling, besides the amazing flavor the smokes create.
For more information about meat and how to add seasoning, click here.
Same goes for its twigs. Rosemary twigs are superior to toothpicks, so use them for finger sandwiches and other dishes where you can apply similar roles.
You can make pesto taste much more interesting with rosemary. Process a cup of fresh rosemary, two tablespoons toasted nuts, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, and diced garlic in a food processor. While the processor is running, stream in olive oil. Place in a small bowl and stir in ground pepper and salt. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
Frozen for later use
You can freeze the rosemary to keep it fresh if you need to add them to your recipes. Wash and dry rosemary leaves – stems removed – and chop it into small pieces. Place them into the ice tray, fill them with water and freeze. When frozen, remove the rosemary ice cubes and store it in a zipper bag in the freezer. Take one or two cubes when you need to use them. These frozen rosemary cubes can be added to soups and stews, or thawed for use in marinades.
How to Prepare Rosemary
After harvesting the fresh rosemary herb, rinse the bunch under water in a colander. Gently rub the rosemary stems to remove dirt and debris as you rinse. Pat the herbs dry. Use it with the needles removed and minced, or as whole sprigs for infusing flavor to a larger dish like roasts and stews.
To remove the rosemary leaves from the stem, pull the needles in the opposite direction from which they grow. The leaves must easily slide from the stalk. They are easy to gather in a bunch and mince by rocking the knife back and forth over the pile until it’s finely chopped.