Rosemary is regarded as the herb of fidelity – Elizabethan sweethearts carried a sprig of rosemary as a sign of fidelity. If one sprinkle or dust some rosemary around the house it is said to bring good luck and protection. In ancient Greece students wore garlands of rosemary or braided rosemary into their hair to improve their memory during exams. Rosemary has been used widely at weddings, funerals and even to ward off the plague. In wedding ceremonies bouquets of the herb were tied and dipped in gold as presents for wedding guests.
Sir Thomas Moore believed the herb to be sacred to remembrance and friendship. In Hamlet, Ophelia said, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” According to legend, rosemary was used to awaken Sleeping Beauty. Though everyone knows it tastes good with lamb, it is also instrumental in helping digest fatty meat, which is why it is also good with roast vegetables. Rosemary tea drunk first thing in the morning is a useful hangover cure.
Rosemary is an aromatic, woody, perennial, evergreen Mediterranean herb. It has light blue or pink flowers and grayish-green leaves which are used as a seasoning in cooking and to scent cosmetics. The leaves look like flat pine-tree needles, deep green in color on top while silver-white on their underside.
Rosemary is drought tolerant, requires little fertilizer and always looks crisp and graceful even on a hot summer day. The pine-scented bushy evergreen thrives in sunny locations and loves well-drained soils. It is native to the sunny hillsides and open valleys along the Mediterranean coast of Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.
It is a member of the mint family, which includes other popular seasonings such as basil, oregano, sage, and thyme. Rosemary is a common ingredient in French and Italian dishes. The flavor hints of both lemon and pine. It can be used to flavor stews, entrees, soups, and casseroles, and may be added to various dressings. It is a component of the popular Italian seasoning.
- Since the eternal times rosemary has been known as the “herb of remembrance.”
- Usage of rosemary dates back to 500 b.c., when it was used as a culinary and medicinal herb by the ancient Greeks and Romans
- It was in the old times said that rosemary will grow particularly well in gardens tended by strong-willed women.
- Young brides traditionally carried a sprig of rosemary in their wreaths or wedding bouquets. The young couple may even have been brought together with the magic of a touch of rosemary, as in the refrain of an old ballad: “Young men and maids do ready stand/With sweet rosemary in their hands.”
- Greek scholars wore a bit of the pungent herb in their hair when studying in order to improve their levels of concentration.
- The fragrant herb was exchanged between friends as a symbol of loyalty
- Rosemary was tossed onto the graves of departed loved ones. In ancient Egypt the herb was buried with the pharaohs.
- Gypsy travelers sought rosemary for its use as a rinse for highlighting dark hair or as a rejuvenating face wash
- In the fourteenth century, Queen Isabella of Hungary used an alcohol extract of the flowering herb to treat gout
- In the 16th and 17th centuries, rosemary became popular as a digestive aid in apothecaries
- Rosemary was believed to have magical powers to banish evil spirits. It was burned in sick rooms as a disinfectant, and was used to ward off the plague
The shift in the consumer preference towards natural herbs and spices have in recent times boosted the demand for rosemary. Spain, France and Egypt are the largest producers of Rosemary. The herbs is widely used in the European countries for culinary and medicinal use. While most of the rosemary oil is produced in France, Dalamatia, Spain and Japan.
Rosemary herb is available in whole-leaf form (fresh and dried) as well as powdered form. It is used primarily as a seasoning in a variety of dishes including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meat (particularly lamb), fish and egg dishes, stuffings and dressings. Rosemary leaves are added to marinades for Lamb as it helps in taming the strong taste. It can be tastefully added to dishes that feature potatoes, squash, tomatoes, peas and carrots. When used sparingly, rosemary adds an interesting flavor to cakes, baked apples and biscuits. Apart from being used as a flavoring agent it is also used as a preservative. Following are few quick serving tips:-
- Add fresh rosemary to omelets and frittatas
- Rosemary is a wonderful herb for seasoning chicken and lamb dishes
- Add rosemary to tomato sauces and soups
- Puree fresh rosemary leaves with olive oil and use as a dipping sauce for bread.
Rosemary is a good source of the minerals iron and calcium, as well as dietary fiber. Fresh rosemary has 25% more manganese (which is somehow lost in the process of drying) and a 40% less calcium and iron, probably due to the higher water content.
The stimulant and analgesic properties of the herb makes it useful in many medicinal preparations. The fresh or dried leaves and flowering tops of rosemary are used for a variety of medicinal benefits. In traditional European medicine, rosemary has been used internally as a tonic, stimulant, and as a carminative to treat flatulence. It is also used to treat dyspepsia, mild gastrointestinal upsets, colds, headaches, and nervous tension. In India and China, rosemary leaves are used to treat headaches. In America rosemary has been for long been used as an antispasmodic, to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion. Today, rosemary is recognized for its ability to stimulate bile secretion and for its anti-inflammatory properties. People gargle rosemary tea to help heal mouth ulcers and canker sores.
Rosemary oil can be distilled from the leaves of the plant, mixed with a vegetable oil, and used for massage. Applied externally this oil is used for relief from muscular and arthritic pain. In Europe, rosemary oil is used to treat rheumatic conditions, bruises, and circulatory problems. When applied externally the oil appears to stimulate an increased blood supply. In addition, rosemary oil or some freshly cut sprigs can be added to bath water to soothe aching muscles and joints.
Two of the most important ingredients in rosemary, which are thought to be largely responsible for many of these therapeutic actions, are caffeic acid and rosemarinic acid – both are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.These two natural acids are effective at reducing inflammation which may contribute to asthma, liver disease and heart disease.