Cooking with rosemary, particularly fresh rosemary, is one of the best decisions a cook can make. There’s just nothing the pine-y flavor it lends to any food, and its scent is positively heady. Read on for tips and hints to help you in the kitchen.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a versatile, aromatic herb. It is used in a wide variety of dishes, including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meats (especially lamb), fish, eggs, stuffings, dressings, and even desserts. It is also used to scent cosmetics and perfumes, in insect repellnts, and has medicinal uses.
Selection and Storage
Fresh rosemary is available in markets year-round. Dried and powdered versions are also readily available in the spice section.
Store fresh rosemary in a plastic bag or in a glass of water in the refrigerator. To dry your own rosemary, hang fresh sprigs in a warm, dry place. Be sure to strip the leaves from the stems, discarding the stems, before storing. This is easily done after the sprigs are dry by putting them in a plastic bag and rubbing them off the stem. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place, away from light, to preserve freshness and flavor.
Dried rosemary leaves should be either wrapped in cheesecloth to be removed later or crushed with a mortar and pestle before adding to any recipe. The leaves can be sharp in the mouth when left whole.
Gardeners will find an added benefit to growing their own rosemary, as it is a natural insect repellant.
Rosemary and Health
Rosemary contains primarily borneol, camphor, eucalyptol, and pinene in its essential oils, which can irritate the skin. Yet, surprisingly enough, it is also used in rheumatic liniments and ointments for its soothing effect.
This herb also has sedative, diuretic, stomach relief, aromatic, antispasmodic and antiseptic properties. It is thought to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of fatigue and neuralgia. Those with sensitive skin may suffer contact dermatitis from cosmetics scented with rosemary oils, or from prolonged handling of the plant.
Rosemary also contains chemicals called [i]quinones[/i], which have been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit carcinogens. Thus, this herb is ranked high on the list of cancer-prevention and reduction foods.
Herbalists use rosemary to treat dizziness due to inner ear problems, nerve conditions, headaches, and stomach ailments. It also helps with halitosis and works as a pain-reducer. Ancient folk remedies list it as a memory-enhancer. Since rosemary is such a flavorful addition, it is a staple to those on a salt-restricted diet.
Warning: Essential, distilled rosemary oil, (not not to be confused with flavored cooking oils), should never be taken internally. It is poisonous in strong doses. Be sure to consult your physician before attempting any medicinal use of any herb, spice or other home remedy.
Now that you know all about cooking with rosemary and its health benefits, you should drop by your local garden store and pick up a plant. It grows easily on a window sill and is very hardy in the garden. You will want to keep fresh rosemary on hand to perk up your meals.
Cooking with Rosemary Photo ©2021 Peggy Filippone