Spicy Spotlight – Rosemary

30 Dec

Rosemary is one of the most versatile herbs, with popular uses including cooking, medicinal and aromatherapy (fancy!). Is there anything it can’t do? One of the world’s oldest herbs (aren’t they all?), Rosemary has a storied history, with as many myths and superstitions associated with it as it has practical uses. And then there was Rosemary’s Baby, which actually has nothing to do with the herb, but is still a cool movie, even if it can be seen as Roman Polanski’s creepy precursor to his wife’s grisly fate a year later. But that’s another topic . . .

Grazing in The City - Spicy Spotlight - RosemaryRosemary’s origins are said to be biblical, with the story being that as the Virgin Mary was fleeing to Egypt with baby Jesus, she tossed her blue cloak onto a bush. The next day, white flowers that were blooming on the bush were turned blue and the herbal bush became known as the “rose of Mary.” A more secular version of the herb’s origin proposes that Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher, categorized the herb from the coastal region, or more specifically, by the foam (ros) of the sea (mare).

As with a lot of herbs, Rosemary’s medicinal origins are also well known and documented. It was consumed in ancient times to relieve abdominal pain and calm nerves, among other maladies. Also, the practice of burning Rosemary has been common in French hospitals, this being attributed to it’s antiseptic properties. These same properties have also proven to aid in cases of fainting, hangovers, bronchitis, asthma, cramps, cystisis, among a multitude of other ailments.

One notable common theme with Rosemary throughout history is remembrance, or memory. Ancient Greek students would wear sprigs to stimulate their memory during exams. It is also still used today in burial ceremonies, often placed in the hands of the deceased before burial.

Grazing in The City - Spicy Spotlight - RosemaryRosemary’s smell is widely familiar as stories suggest it was the first herb to be distilled as an essential oil. Who knows if that’s actually true, but today it’s aromatic properties are used a lot in cosmetics, toiletries and other areas of the perfume industry as well. Whether infused in a candle or bath water, Rosemary has been shown to recharge energy and relieve stress, anxiety and headaches.

Rosemary’s distinctive smell and taste has definitely influenced our senses throughout history. Even though it has a distinctive flavor and aroma similar to evergreen or pine, it’s actually a member of the mint family. Used in cooking, it pairs extremely well with potatoes, breads and meats, particularly poultry and is often used in soups and marinades as well. It also blends well with other spices, but it’s pungent flavor can dominate a dish if you’re not careful.

I use it a good bit, but always sparingly and I don’t tend to use it with other spices, as a little always dominates flavors from other spices and herbs. I like to use it where it can be featured by itself, mostly in chicken dishes. But it’s also a great enhancement with lamb and beef as well. And who doesn’t like it included in a nice artisan loaf of bread, with olive oil and sea salt?? Yum . . .

Also, check out these other Spicy Spotlights on Sage, Thyme, Paprika, Cilantro & Coriander!


2 Responses to “Spicy Spotlight – Rosemary”

  1. Pasta Princess December 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Very interesting post! I have used Rosemary in my cooking for years and love it, but never realized the origins and medicinal uses! I grow Rosemary every summer, it’s still growing in a pot in the garage – in Northeast Ohio! I could hardly believe it was still growing, although now it is sadly on its way out. Rosemary is wonderful in bread with some garlic! Mmmm 🙂 Thanks for posting and visiting my blog. Happy New Year!

  2. Eva Taylor December 31, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    I love rosemary as well but in small doses. I had a recipe for rosemary focaccia but haven’t made it in years, thanks for the reminder!

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