Rosemary

  • Rosemary
  • Rosemary
  • Rosemary

Description

Rosemary is the dried leaves of the evergreen Rosmarinus officinalis. The slender, slightly curved leaves resemble miniature curved pine needles. Normally hand harvested, the Rosemary plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and is very hardy as it grows under harsh mountainous conditions.

Uses

Rosemary has one of those distinctive, strong flavors that convinces the palate that herbs aren't just delicate things reserved for dainty soups and sprinkling on baby vegetables. It takes hold of the taste buds with a woodsy flavor, somewhat piny, mintlike yet sweeter, with a slight ginger finish. It can also be used as a subtle accent, using just a hint of the flavor lightening the mood of an otherwise mundane sauce or pastry.

Its flavor harmonizes with those of poultry, fish, lamb, beef, veal, pork, and game, particularly in their roasted forms. Rosemary enhances tomatoes spinach, peas, mushrooms, squash, cheese, eggs, lentils, and complements the herbs chives, thyme, chervil, parsley, and bay in recipes. Gentle soups like potato and eggplant benefit from rosemary's robust character, as do marinades, salad dressings, bouquet garnis, and cream sauces.

You can use both the flowers and leaves for garnishing and cooking. Crush or mince the spiky leaves before sprinkling over or rubbing into foods.

History

In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams believing it improved their memory. For centuries people thought that a rosemary plant would grow no higher than 6 feet in 33 years so as not to stand taller than Christ. Another story tells that the flowers were originally white but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush while fleeing from Herod's soldiers with the Christ child. Rosemary possessed powers of protection against evil spirits, or so people thought. In the Middle Ages, men and women would place sprigs under their pillows to ward off demons and prevent bad dreams.

Health Benefits

Beyond being a flavoring-enhancer for certain foods and its use in cosmetics, you may not be aware that rosemary extract has a long history of medicinal uses too. It has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including stomach upsets, digestive disorders and headaches.

Recent research is now revealing even more benefits attached to this remarkable herb, including its ability to help prevent cancer and age-related skin damage, boost the functioning of the liver and act as a mild diuretic to help reduce swelling.

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.

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