Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I love its heavy aroma and interesting history. Rosemary is a member of the mint family and is native to the Mediterranean region usually growing near the ocean. It is an evergreen shrub (the leaves resemble pine needles) and can grow up to 6 feet tall, but they are usually around 3 feet tall and bushy.
There have been a wide variety of uses for rosemary over the centuries. Since Medieval times and through till Victorian times, rosemary was used for weddings in decoration and adornment. It symbolized fidelity, love, friendship and the life of the bride before marriage. Anne of Cleves, one of King Henry VIII’s many wives, wore it as a wreath dipped in scented water on her wedding day.
It has also been thrown into graves as a symbol of remembrance, a nightmare and witch repellent, stuffed into dolls to attract lovers or curative vibrations, a love-divinatory instrument, and turned into a symbol that the woman ruled the house. Men would rip up rosemary bushes growing in their gardens as a sign that it was they, not their wives that ruled the house.
Rosemary has also been used (and some still use it today) for medicinal purposes. Traditionally used in a tincture of alcohol and rosemary to treat gout and help renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs. It became the first ever European perfume called Hungary water because it was first made for a Queen of Hungary, the exact date of invention is lost to history. It has been used for improving memory and a study had shown memory improvement when the scent was pumped into the air of office cubicles in an experiment. Rosemary has a number of potentially biologically active compounds including two antioxidants.
Rosemary has a strong aroma and its culinary uses are many. You can use rosemary in everything from dry rubs and marinades to stews and sweets.
To hopefully inspire you, I am writing down a recipe to make rosemary oil. There are many uses for this oil in marinades, salads, and soups. You could also use it to garnish meat and seafood dishes or just dip a nice piece of bread in it. Put in nice bottles, rosemary oil can also be given as nice gifts!
Start with 5 sprigs of rosemary for every liter of oil; add more if needed depending on how strong you want the oil to be.
Warm a less strongly flavored oil (like safflower or sunflower oil, but you can use olive oil as well!) up on the stove over low heat. You do not want it even near a simmer, really just warmed up a bit. Meanwhile, wash the rosemary with water and dry gently with a paper towel. Place the rosemary in the glass jar or bottle of your choice. Pour the warm oil over the herb and seal the jar/bottle tightly. Store it in a cool, dark place like a pantry or cupboard for about 2 weeks to let the oil and herb infuse. Taste and add more rosemary depending on how strong you want the oil to taste. If you need to add more rosemary, add it and store it again for another week and taste it again then.
Tip: If you are using a monounsaturated oil like olive oil or peanut oil. These infused oils should be refrigerated in case of botulism. Use all oils within 2 months. You can also add garlic or chili peppers to the oil to give it more depth.
Photos courtesy of Getty images