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. It is a symbol of remembrance and friendship, and is often carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity. Sprigs of rosemary were placed under pillows at night to ward off evil spirits and bad dreams. The wood was used to make lutes and other musical instruments.
Rosemary is an attractive evergreen shrub with pine needle-like leaves. It's trusses of blue flowers last through spring and summer in a warm, humid environment. It will grow to a height of between 3 and 5 feet.
Propagate from cuttings of the twisted wood of non-flowering branches in early summer, or layer established branches. Rosemary can also be grown from seed. Choose a sheltered position and well-drained soil, and allow the plant lots of sun. The thick shrub tolerates clipping so that the size can be kept in check. In hot weather it will appreciate a good hosing down. In a warm climate it can remain in the same location for up to 30 years, but in climates where freezing temperatures are expected it is best grown in pots so that it can be brought indoors in winter.
Rosemary contains a compound called rosmaricine that seems to relieve headaches the same way aspirin does, but without irritating the stomach. The oil should not be taken internally; even small doses can cause stomach, kidney and intestinal problems, and large amounts may be poisonous. Use a tea instead by placing one teaspoon of crushed dried leaves in a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Pregnant women should not use the herb medicinally as it can cause stomach cramping. Rosemary is a stimulant, so can increase blood pressure.
Rosemary contains primarily borneol, camphor, eucalyptol and pinene in its essential oils which can be irritating to the skin, yet it is used in rheumatic liniments and ointments for its soothing effect.
Rosemary is pungent and should be used sparingly. If adding to a recipe, strip the leaves from the stem and chop up finely; this would be best for chicken, fish, soups and stews. For roasting and grilling, place the whole stem on top of the food, or put the springs directly onto the coals; this would be best if using lamb or deer.
Rosemary for Remembrance
The ancient Greeks believed that rosemary strengthened memory; both scholars and students wore it in their hair to remember their studies; it was burned to help inspire the students. Rosemary became a symbol, not just of rememberance, but of fidelity, hence its use at weddings and funerals.
Lamb Stew with Rosemary
4 lbs lamb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp flour
4 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups diced tomatoes
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary, or 3 teaspoons dried
1/2 lb baby carrots
1 lb potatoes, peeled, cut in half; quarter each half
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray; lightly brown lamb on medium-high heat; drain off excess oil. Mix flour with the meat, covering evenly.
Place meat in a 6 quart crock pot, and add all other ingredients, except the parsley. Put setting on low and let cook for 6-8 hours; stir occasionally. Test meat, carrots and potatoes for tenderness; when ready, serve with a sprinkle of parlsey.
Serves six.Mary Cokenour
September 12, 2003