Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rosemary - Herb of the Week

This quest made me decide to make the herb of the week
                     - Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Besides being a great spice for recipes, rosemary is excellent in sleep pillows and herbal baths. It rekindles your energy and will make you feel happy. It is one of the best or at least longest known from a herbalist standpoint as it can be found in many of the oldest “herbals” (those are the early publications on the power and use of herbs.)  Rosemary, in the language of flowers, is “remembrance.”  This dates back to medieval times when rosemary was thought to increase memory.  It is a great herb of headaches, aiding sleep, restoring hair and as a strong anti-bacterial.  Recently there have been studies testing its use against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Rosemary is a semi-hardy perennial native to the rocky cliff sides of the Mediterranean.  The leaves are needle-like and sharply scented of pine.  In addition to the glossy leaves, it can have flowers in blue, white or lavender depending on the species.  In the Midwest you will need to grow your rosemary in a pot so that it can be brought inside in the winter, however in the summer, give it a sunny location and it will thrive.  Many people place them in the ground for summer and only pot them up in the fall.  All it requires is good drainage.
In bringing the plant inside at the end of the season several rules need to be followed or, like me, your rosemary will need to be replaced the following spring.  You can leave your plant out until the temps drop below freezing consistently.  You do not want to freeze the roots.  Once inside a cool sunny window will do (temps around 50 to 60 will be perfect). I’ve left mine out well into November most years. 
Rosemary prefers cramped roots, lots of sun and high humidity.  Anyone in the Midwest knows that after months of winter your home can become every dry.  So keep the plant well watered.  NEVER let it dry out.  According to Adelma Simmons “A dry rosemary is a dead rosemary.”  The best solution is to place it on a bed of pebbles and keep a layer of water in the pebbles, then it can draw up the moisture it wants and the humidity around the plant will be increased.  Just check everyday that the level of water is visible in the pebbles.
Rosemary, with its pine-needle-like leaves has a strong flavor so should be cut or chopped fine when used.  Pork, beef, veal, lamb, chicken and tomatoes as well as breads are all enhanced to rosemary.  It makes great vinegar and can be used in herbal butters and in herb jelly.
It is also used in bath items because of the anti-oxidant and antiseptic qualities it holds.  In perfumes and lotions the essential oil of rosemary is sometimes added as a preservative.  The aroma of rosemary actually releases adrenalin into your system which is why just a sprig of rosemary pinned to your lapel will make you feel more awake and revived.  In bath items the presence of rosemary helps prevent wrinkles and improve blood flow to skin cells reducing the look of aging.
You can also prepare an effective sleep enhancing rosemary tea using a pinch of valerian.
Herb Seasoning for Beef
¼ cup rosemary
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. granulated onion
Blend together and store in a tightly covered jar.  Use ½ tsp. per serving for meats or vegetables.  Can be used as a rub, seasoning or marinade (blend into olive oil and vinegar).  You can use this blend to make a rosemary butter to, just blend 2 tsp. per stick of room temperature butter and blend in with a fork.  Allow to meld for at least 1 hour before serving.  (The Backyard Patch has a blend for butter using rosemary called Butter N Cheese.)

Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Roll the dough into large marble sized pieces using 1 level tablespoon of the dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown. After the cookies have been removed from the oven and have cooled off slightly roll each one in confectioner’s sugar. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies.

Mind-altering Spray
Make your own mind improving aromatherapy treatment by mixing 10 drops of rosemary essential oil with 10 drops of basil essential oil and 10 drops of peppermint essential oil with 4 ounces of distilled water.  Mix all together and place in a small spray bottle and shake well before using.  Mist the room to keep you mind alert and wakeful.
Remember just enjoy your Rosemary!

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