This is a widely used herb, its used as a spice when cooking especially in Mediterranean dishes. Native to the Mediterranean area, rosemary now grows widely in other parts of the world. It thrives in a warm and sunny climate. The rosemary bush belongs to the mint family which includes basil, lavender, myrtle, and sage.Rosemary is derived from the Latin words ros (dew) and marinus (sea). Rosemary is actually a bush perennial that grows in abundance in the Mediterranean area ( Spain, Italy, Portugal, Southern France, Greece and North Africa as well as in isolated areas of Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt). It is one of the most common aromatic wild plants of the Mediterranean. Its an upright evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 6 to 6.5 feet. .The woody rootstock bears rigid branches with fissured bark. The long , needle like leaves are dark green on top and pretty pale beneath.The small flowers that develop are pale blue, along the stem in-between. Many different varieties are around and flowers range from pale blue, pink, violet and white. Both the fresh and dried leaves are very aromatic.The leaves and twigs of the plant are used for medicinal and culinary purposes.
Rosemary has a mesmerizing aromatic fragrance and the essential oil scent of camphor. Many experts relate the fragrance to pine needles that is slightly resinous with a sweet scent., and hence rosemary essential oil is an excellent inhalant. The oil is used in room fresheners, cosmetics, beauty aids, food, bath oil, candles and perfumes . The oil, when inhaled brings mental energy and also clears the respiratory tract. Rosemary plant and its extract were also used in the ancient Egyptian civilization as incense.
Rosemary is very strong in flavour and should therefore be used sparingly. It is described as having a very bold flavour very spicy camphor like flavour of a pine forest. They have a bitter, astringent taste and are highly aromatic, which complements a wide variety of foods.
Rosemary is nutritious
Rosemary is a herb that contains plenty of vitamins and minerals whether it is fresh or dried. Fresh rosemary, which is used in larger quantities than dried rosemary, is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, folate and manganese. It is also a good source of Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium and copper.
The various health benefits of rosemary, just a few to mention
- Rosemary aids digestion
- Stimulates the circulation of the blood throughout our bodies,relieves depression, anxiety and nervousness
- Relieves pain, has resulted in its extensive usage in headaches, muscle pains, sore muscles, rheumatism and even arthritis for centuries.
- High antioxidant properties.
- It is an antiseptic.
- Makes a wonderful tea.
- Externally it is made into an ointment to treat rheumatism, sores, eczema and bruises.
- Rosemary has many healing properties and is probably most well known for its ability to calm the nervous system, relieve aches and pains and as a refreshing and rejuvenating skin tonic.
- Preparations made from fresh or dried leaves, such as alcohol tinctures, teas, and liquid extract.
- The Essential oil: Volatile oil to be used externally, not internally, It is poisonous in strong doses. Be sure to consult your physician before attempting any medicinal use of any herb.
Buying and storing rosemary
All forms of rosemary are available year-round and in most markets. Store fresh rosemary in a plastic bag or in a glass of water in the refrigerator, or as a flower arrangement. To dry rosemary, tie a few fresh sprigs together and hang in a warm, dry place. Be sure to strip off the leaves before storing. This is easily done after the sprigs are dry by putting them in a plastic bag and rubbing them off the stem, they break off gently. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place, away from light.
Ideas for cooking with rosemary, excellent flavouring for potatoes and other root vegetables-use the sprigs as skewer sticks for lamb-
- Rosemary can be difficult to use if you don’t know the tricks. The dried leaves are tough and can be prickly in delicate dishes like soups unless it has been minced fine to distribute the flavour and soften the skin. When used fresh, it’s always best to retain the whole sprig, removing it before serving your prepared dish.
- It is an excellent flavouring for lamb, pork and chicken in particular.
- Rosemary is a versatile, aromatic herb. It is used in a wide variety of dishes, including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, stuffing’s, dressings and even desserts.
- Can be used to flavour foods while barbecuing. Dried rosemary loses its strength of flavour. Rosemary makes a fine tea.