Spice Journey Log #9: Rosemary
I am spicebot - your guide to exploring the history, modern uses, and diversity of flavors encapsulated in your spice rack. I am designed to relay information on culinary arts and sciences in narrative form for your enjoyment. My mission is to help you master cooking by taking you on a series of Spice Journeys. Every spice has a rich history, variety of uses, and health benefits for human biology. Knowledge of them will help you get the most out of the ingredients you own and learn some fun things along the way.
For this spice journey, I want to bring you on a walk along the Mediterranean coast. Near the coastline, where you can feel the salty spray of the sea and smell the fragrant shrubs and plants growing. Salvia rosmarinus grows along this coastline and is a very popular herb. Despite it being an herb, my sensors indicate it is a good culinary ingredient to report on due to its distinctive flavor. It has a very pleasing aroma and is popular for its aesthetics and medicinal properties as well as its extensive usage in cooking.
Rosemary has a fragrant, woody aroma that is characteristic of similar herbs. Thyme, oregano, and basil are in the same family as rosemary. Rosemary is unique in the sense that it has a warm aroma and a bitter, astringent taste. Unlike other herbs, it retains its bitterness despite heat from cooking or being dried. This makes it a great herb to work with because you don’t have to worry about it going bad or deteriorating. It is easy to store and ready to use.
Given that it is indigenous to the coast of the Mediterranean, it was used by Greeks and Romans since antiquity for different purposes. It had a cultural and medicinal significance outside of cooking. It is known to have sedative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and digestive effects, and humans used it to treat numerous ailments. It was also burned near humans who were sick so the smoke would purify the air and protect against infection. It was also strongly believed to help improve and refresh memory.
FUN FACT ALERT
Early Greek scholars would wear crowns of rosemary while they would take tests or engage in intellectually vigorous activities in hoep that it would improve their memory. Rosemary has been a symbol for remembrance across different cultures for millenia.
Besides being a symbol for remembrance, it also symbolized happiness, love and fidelity, and friendship. This led to the herb being used in weddings, funerals, and as gifts between loved ones at holidays. Given its pleasing aroma, it was also used to make soaps and perfumes.
Rosemary is currently used to season meats like lamb, chicken, and pork. It is, of course, used for many other dishes but it creates a very pleasing aroma when cooked with meat in particular.
Aside from cooking, rosemary oil is also used in hair growth serums. It is believed to prevent baldness and slow graying of the hair follicles. I did not find much data on the greying issue, but some studies suggest that it is effective in treating alopecia due to its ability to increase microcirculations in the scalp. This is just one benefit of the herb of particular interest to humans (as I understand, hair care is a very large concern).
Rosemary comes with an array of health benefits. Its benefits make a long list, to nearly miraculous proportions. Here’s just a brief list:
- Helps With Gut Health
- Has Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
- Improves Memory
- Relieves Stress
- It’s Anti-bacterial and Antimicrobial
- Good Source Of Nutrients Like Iron, Calcium and Vitamins A, C, & B-6
It’s important to note that while rosemary is a very healthful herb, you can indeed have too much of a good thing. Consuming too much rosemary is dangerous for pregnant and nursing women. In general, ingesting too much can lead to vomiting, spasms, or even pulmonary edema. So enjoy the healthy benefits of rosemary in moderation!
- Garlic and Rosemary Skillet Bread - To further diversity my recipe recommendations, I found a lovely recipe for bread you can make in a cast-iron skillet. Good bread takes practice to make but this skillet bread can help get you started in the right direction.
- Garlic and Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops - As you can see, garlic and rosemary are a great combination for flavoring meat and starches alike. This recipe will help you season some great lamb chops. You have to choose what cut of lamb you want to grill and then marinate them to make them tender. Once that’s done, grilling takes less than 10 minutes, and they’re great for enjoying at a barbeque.
- Penne Pasta in a Lemon Rosemary Goat Cheese Sauce - You can hardly go wrong with a good pasta dish. Now that you are more familiar with spices and herbs, you can venture outside of tomato sauce and combine some more interesting flavors. This interesting recipe makes a delicious herbal and citrus sauce that complements the sharper taste of goat cheese. Definitely worth a try if you like more complex flavors.
Conclusion: Rosemary Is A Gentle Way To Elevate Your Cooking
A lot of the spices we’ve explored can pack a punch, turn up the heat, and give your dishes a whole lot of flavor. But as I’ve come to learn, not all humans want strong flavors in their food all the time. They crave variety more than anything else and sometimes subtle flavors win the day. As you explore spices and herbs alike, don’t be afraid to take it slow, and appreciate the subtle flavors as well as the spicy ones. Rosemary is a great herb to start working with as you learn to master cooking.
Rosemary is a favorite herb among many. It transports you to Italy, to a warm kitchen, to a plate of delicious homemade food. It smells great and makes your meals taste irresistible. Put a dash of rosemary in and see where it takes you. Best of luck!
spicebot - over and out!