by Barbara Porsch, Master Gardener, Herb Enthusiast
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is the symbol of remembrance. Today, rosemary is often found in floral arrangements for the Christmas season. In fact, I have already seen in stores Rosemary pruned up into tree shapes to be used for decorating. The old herbalists recommended it “for all infirmities of the head and brain.” Europeans suggested wearing a garland of rosemary as a remedy against forgetfulness. Besides being a symbol of remembrance, rosemary was a token of fidelity and fresh sprigs were used in bridal bouquets or to drape a funeral coffin. It is said that an ointment can soothe the pain of rheumatism. Toss some sprigs into a hot bath to soothe aching muscles. I can attest that after a hard day in the garden this really is nice. Also, I have heard that rubbing your dog with rosemary twigs will repel ticks and fleas. I do know that my dog sure smelled good after running through the shrub chasing lizards. The blossoms attract bees and birds. A woody shrub native to the Mediterranean, rosemary was spread through northern Europe by the Romans who burned the pine scented leaves as incense. So it is a natural to use the stems when cooking on an outdoor grill. A few twigs bound together can be used as a basting brush or tossed onto the coals to let the flavor permeate the meat. Rosemary is best when planted from started cuttings. Plant in full sun or partial shade but especially well drained soil. Once established it requires minimum water. Since it is evergreen, you may harvest year round, but it does dry easily. Tie a bundle of branches together and hang upside down in a cool well ventilated spot and then store the dried needles in airtight jars. Rosemary is the perfect seasoning for chicken, beef, wild game or lamb. Stuff the inside of the chicken with rosemary twigs and sliced lemons. Do the same for grilling or baking whole fish. The sprigs do not soften when cooked, so remove before serving. Toss minced needles with oiled new potatoes to roast. It compliments dishes that feature tomatoes, squash, beans or peas. I found the following recipe in a tourist type newspaper in Baton Rouge while on a Master Gardener tour through Louisiana and Mississippi, led by Bill Welch.
HERB ROASTED POTATOES 2 to 3 pound medium red potatoes ¼ cup olive oil About ¼ cup chopped fresh chives ½ cup chopped fresh parsley Fresh rosemary (4 tip pieces each about 2 inches long) Tony Chachere creole seasoning Wash potatoes but do not peel. Boil until just tender in the middle; drain and allow to cool. Combine the olive oil, chives and parsley. Slice the cooled potatoes about ¼ inch thick and toss gently with the oil and herbs. Spread in flat baking dish Sprinkle lightly with seasoning mix. Lay the fresh rosemary on top and cover with foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue for another 10 minutes or so until lightly brown on top. Discard the rosemary before serving.