Rosemary: the evergreen that smells like the sea
Loved in the kitchen and for its beneficial power to improve concentration and digestion after a hearty meal: let's discover together the properties, benefits and uses of rosemary.
- What does the rosemary plant look like?
- When was rosemary discovered?
- Is rosemary good for you?
- How is rosemary used?
Rosemary is the king of spices on the Mediterranean table. Fragrant and aromatic, this plant is the secret ingredient par excellence to transform a recipe. Very useful with second courses that lack flavor, but also in the most unexpected desserts, rosemary has a history and qualities to be discovered.
What does the rosemary plant look like?
For many it may seem superfluous, but we still want to start with the official presentations: Rosmarinus Officinale L. belongs to the Lamiaceae family; it is a very branched bushy shrub that can reach 2 m in height, characterized by numerous evergreen, narrow and elongated leaves. The color is dark green on the top and silver on the bottom. The blue-violet flowers are grouped in clusters and flowering lasts for almost the whole year.
Rosemary is so typical in our homes, orchards and gardens because it is a local plant native to the Mediterranean coasts. It can grow both in pots and in the soil of a vegetable garden, but it is also common to spot it along the coasts of the lower Adriatic and Tyrrhenian and in general in the Mediterranean scrub bushes up to 800 m, especially in sunny and coastal positions.
When was rosemary discovered?
If today rosemary is known above all for its unmistakable aroma (which goes so well with the beloved baked potatoes), in ancient times it was considered a prodigious therapeutic ally, very useful for digestion but also to relieve joint and muscle disorders.Ancient Egyptians considered it magical and capable of procuring immortality since its twigs, once cut, remained fresh for a long time. For the Romans it became the symbol of death and love – the poet Orazio advised to bring rosemary and myrtle wreaths to the dead to earn their graces. While in medieval culture rosemary is attributed salvific properties, so much so that it was said that carrying a sprig of rosemary could protect against malevolent influences and purify the environment.
Is rosemary good for you?
Doctors and herbalists have studied this plant for centuries: from Dioscorides in his “De ars medica” to the “Herbario” by Castore Durante, they all agreed that the virtues of rosemary includes aiding the digestive system, fighting the tiredness, treating migraines and nervous breakdowns, stimulating concentration and memory.
Leaves, twigs and flowering ends of rosemary are used for their multiple properties: stimulating, tonic, flavoring, digestive, diuretic, antiseptic, balsamic, hepatoprotective. Much of these properties are due to the phenolic compounds present in rosemary, which make this plant, among other things, also useful in food preservation.
How is rosemary used?
It would be nice not to have to buy it, but to always have a close friend or relative who has a bush in the garden and willingly shares it. The only recommendation we would like to make is that rosemary should be harvested in spring, avoiding the most woody branches. It is then possible to dry it in a shady and airy place.
The only limit to the use of rosemary in the kitchen is the imagination: perfect on roasts and for condiments, excellent on pizza bread and focaccia, but also added to sauces, legumes and soups to which it will not only give an incomparable aroma, but also make them more digestible. The fresher the rosemary the more delicate the aroma. When using it dried expect a more pungent flavor.
To be tried also as aromatic syrup, especially in cocktails where it can be perfectly combined with practically any base, from gin to vodka.
Widely used in the cosmetic field too, you’ll find it in masks for acneic skin and for stimulating and dermo-purifying shower gels. The leaves are part of the composition of colognes, mild shampoos and hair dyes.
When infused rosemary helps digestion, has an astringent power and promotes liver functions. For these virtues, it is one of the ingredients of our Remedium n.3 – Digestive, a fresh and light-flavored herbal tea to be enjoyed after every meal. We have also decided to include this ingredient in two other recipes. You can find it in Remedium n. 5 – Focus and in Remedium n. 6 – Relax for its ability to enhance mental tone and increase attention levels. William Shakespeare was not wrong when, in Hamlet, he made Ophelia say: “There is rosemary, the plant of remembrance”.
- Its name comes from the Latin ros maris, which some translate as “sea dew” and others as “sea rose”, a name that in both case is very apt for its predilection for marine environments, or in relation to the blue-violet color of its flowers, similar to that of the sea at sunset.
- It is said that in the seventeenth century Queen Isabella of Hungary, already old and feeble, found her health back and a new youth thanks to a special rosemary liqueur.
- The flower of this plant is very popular with bees. Have you ever tried rosemary honey?
- Rosemary is also the protagonist of many myths and legends. In Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, it is told of the love between Leucotoe, daughter of the king of Persia, and Apollo, god of the sun. Her father, having discovered her relationship and unable to do anything against a god, killed her daughter, who the sun’s rays transformed into a shrub with an intense scent and small purple flowers, becoming a symbol of immortality.
- Zavatto, A. (2015). Forager’s Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients. Sterling Epicure.
- Bulgarelli, Gilberto, and Sergio Flamigni. Guida Pratica Alle Piante Officinali. Hoepli, 2011.
- Luciano, Riccardo, and Carlo Gatti. Erbe Spontanee Commestibili. Araba Fenice, 2014.
- Nieto, G.; Ros, G.; Castillo, J. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, L.): A Review. Medicines 2018, 5, 98. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines5030098