Rosemary, use it gently
Records can be found tracing the use of Rosemary back to 500 BC. For hundreds of years it was used as a treatment for nervous system ailments. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. It became a symbol of fidelity among newly weds. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banquet halls for festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells. At weddings, it was wound in the wreath worn by the bride, after being dipped in scented water. Anne of Cleves, one of the wives of Henry the VIII, wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribbons of all colors, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty.
The botanical name Rosmarinus is derived form the old Latin for ‘dew of the sea’, a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it is often grown near the sea. Rosemary is yet another herb that is in the mint family. The mint family gives us a lot of different herbs; basil, marjoram, oregano, and savory to name a few.
It is native to the Mediterranean area, where it grows wild, but it is now cultivated all over Europe and the United States. I have seen it used in certain parts of Arizona as a short hedge in landscaping. Rosemary is a popular spice in many Western countries, but its usage is most popular in its native Mediterranean countries, especially Italy and France, less so Greece. Rosemary does not lose its flavor by long cooking, as many other herbs unfortunately do. Rosemary is one of those herbs that are more potent in the dried state than fresh. There are few herbs as pungent as Rosemary. Being subtle is not one of Rosemary’s traits. Looking like a pine needle from a distance, this herb should be ground finely for optimum use. It is also used by better restaurants as a garnish. The flavor has been described as being somewhere between pine, mint, and lemon. It may be purchased in sprigs, as leaves, ground, and as an essential oil.
Use Rosemary for fish, meat (especially poultry), but also for vegetables. It is often used for potatoes and for vegetables fried in olive oil, as commonly prepared in Mediterranean countries. In Italian cuisine, mutton is hardly ever cooked without Rosemary, and broiled poultry wrapped in Rosemary twigs is also very popular. A similar effect can be achieved by sprinkling Rosemary leaves on glowing charcoal during grilling. Rosemary is an ideal herb for flavoring vinegar.
Rosemary is used both in the kitchen and in fragrances for cosmetics. During the winter holiday season there is nothing that will put you in the spirit of the season like Rosemaryed walnuts.
If you just can’t seem to find Rosemary, an interesting substitute is oregano or sweet basil leaves and flowers.