Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a bush with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. Native to the Mediterranean region, it is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes over 7,000 species. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin words "ros", meaning "dew" and "marinus," meaning "sea" - "dew of the sea". Rosemary has been in culinary use since at least 500 B.C.
In Greek mythology, it's said to have been draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea. Another legend says that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush while she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the "Rose of Mary".
As a medicinal herb, it has long been recommended for strengthening the brain and memory. The herb contains substances that are useful for improving digestion and increasing circulation.
In cooking, rosemary is used as a seasoning in a variety of dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Use rosemary with chicken and other poultry, game, lamb, pork, steaks, and fish, especially oily fish. It also goes well with grains, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, and spinach.
Rinse fresh sprigs of rosemary under cold running water and pat dry. Recipes usually call for whole leaves, which are easily removed from the woody stems. Whole sprigs of rosemary may be added to stews and meat dishes.
To store rosemary, place the sprigs in a plastic food storage bag with a damp paper towel. Fresh rosemary will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.
Garlic and Rosemary Butter
This rosemary butter is an excellent topping for steak, or use it as a spread or vegetable butter. It's great on baked potatoes or tossed with pasta.
Chop 2 medium cloves of garlic and then mash with the wide side of a chef's knife or mortar and pestle. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves. Blend well. Add 1 stick (4 ounces) of room temperature butter and mash with a fork until thoroughly blended. Place the butter on a sheet of wax paper and shape into a log. Wrap well and refrigerate until chilled. Refrigerate or freeze.
You can also make rosemary-infused olive oil.