Herbs & Spices
Season for Rosemary Available Year-Round
Though we no longer tuck its branches beneath our pillows at night to ward off demons and nightmares (as was done in the Middle Ages), this evergreen shrub's allure with its pine cum lemon scent is anything but lost. The name derives from the Latin rosmarinus, which means "dew of the sea," as rosemary often needs no other water than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to thrive. Thus - for you coastal folk - planting rosemary in your garden carries numerous benefits: whether you enjoy its aesthetic (tiny purple flowers) and aroma wafting through the air, you're in need of low-maintenance plants, you revere this herb for its medicinal uses or you prize this culinary wonder in all manner of dishes. Rosemary is your gal.
How to Buy and Store Rosemary
As with most herbs, whenever possible, we opt for the fresh variety - as it tends to be superior in flavor, health benefits and hardly anything feels as satisfying as cooking with herbs from your own little garden. Wherever you get your fresh rosemary, look for those sprigs that appear vibrantly fresh with a deep sage color, and without any yellow or dark spots. Store them in your refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel (or in a glass of water) where it will stay fresh for up to a week. If you end up with a superfluous amount of rosemary, you can place the sprigs in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews. Keep your dried rosemary in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place where it will keep fresh for up to six months.
How to Cook Rosemary
Hardly a spice dresses up potatoes in all its yummy, starchy forms than the spiky sprigs of rosemary. Always rinse off your sprigs to get rid of dirt or particulates first. Then, you can either strip off the leaves from the woodier stems (if you're using dried rosemary, you can chop or crush them in your fingertips to avoid sharp sprigs) or use whole sprigs to flavor your food, removing them before serving.
Often cooked with meats - particularly lamb - the aroma from freshly-cut sprigs of rosemary is released upon roasting. Consider roasting with vegetables like butternut squash, pumpkin, turnip and red onions, or baking rosemary into homemade bread. Rosemary can also be used sparingly in desserts, and the sprigs can be used as skewers on your barbecue much to everyone's delight.
Health Benefits of Rosemary
Rosemary is your brain's best friend, herbally speaking. It's been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration. One study found that carnosic acid, found in rosemary, may shield the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's, but rosemary has been historically prized for its memory-enhancing properties. In fact, Greek students used to wear wreaths of rosemary around their heads during exams.
In additon, rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion, as well as anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks. It also has antioxidants that have been shown to fight cancer.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Rosemary
Rosemary is actually a natural pesticide, repelling insects all on its own. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean when you purchase this spice conventionally, it will be void of chemicals. Most herbs undergo unnatural processes of fumigation before making it to your spice rack - either through the administration of pesticides or irradiation. You are best off growing your own rosemary organically, or purchasing it from an organic farmer. Then you can breathe deep as its delicious aroma fills your kitchen.