The Simple Joys of Rosemary
I fell madly in love with rosemary years ago. It wasn’t love at first sight and I don’t even remember how she started capturing my heart, but there are so many simple ways of using rosemary that bring me such joy today. This bold fragrant lady is native to the Mediterranean and is a member of the mint family. In this post I’ll share how to reciprocate love for this herb so you can cultivate a year long relationship and I’ll suggest some of my favorite ways to enjoy it both inside and outside the home.
Caring for Rosemary and Overwintering
I’m a huge fan of having pots of herbs close to the house, but as you can see from a few of my pics below, I’ve got pots of rosemary in front of and behind the house, I stick it in alongside other flowers in pots and I have planted it as a border in a flower bed as well. This year I went a little crazy with planting it in so many locations, but it is also the first year that I’ve had more than enough at all times. It’s fairly easy to care for outdoors whether in the ground or in a pot. Just make sure the drainage is good as it doesn’t like it’s roots to remain wet, yet don’t let it dry out completely either. If you live in a more temperate climate, rosemary can withstand the chill of winter, particularly if you plant it close to the house and give it some protection from hard freezes. Otherwise you can bring your pot inside when the weather begins to get consistently nasty and continue to enjoy her tender branches all year long. Care is a little more tricky inside as the air gets drier in the winter and I stress that rosemary is finicky about not having wet roots, yet not letting them dry out completely either. This is even more important when you bring her indoors. I typically wait until temperatures are often close to or below freezing before bringing at least one pot of it indoors. Than I water once every couple of weeks and mist the leaves once or twice a week to supplement for the drier air indoors in the winter.
Ways to Use Fresh Rosemary
If you love the flavor of rosemary as much as I do, there are a multitude of ways you can use it for cooking. Many of these suggestions make for a lovely gift as well.
✨ Rosemary Sea Salt - Simply chop fresh rosemary finely, add to a pretty pink sea salt and store in an clear airtight container. The small size Mason jars work well for this, particularly if you intend to use as a gift. Add a little round label to the top or side of the jar, attach a pretty ribbon and you quickly have a simple but thoughtful gift to bring to a dinner party.
✨ Rosemary Infused Olive Oil - This too makes a lovely gift and is just as simple to make. Fill an attractive bottle with a good quality olive oil, add many full sprigs of rosemary, close/seal the top and wait a month or so for the flavor to infuse the oil. If you are making this for a gift, you may want to infuse oil in larger Mason jars first. The when enough time has passed that the oil has a pleasant rosemary flavor, transfer it to pretty jars, add just a few small sprigs of fresh rosemary to make it look nice and decorate the bottle with ribbon or raffia.
✨ Rosemary Herb Butter - Super simple - just add fresh chopped rosemary to softened or whipped butter. Store any left over in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. This is great on potatoes, steamed vegetables or as a savory spread for many baked goods.
✨ Rosemary Biscuits - Here is another easy one to try - no special recipe is needed. Roughly a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped rosemary can be added into the dry ingredients of your favorite biscuit recipe. Some shredded cheese makes nice addition as well (roughly 1/2 cup of shredded cheese added to a typical biscuit recipe will work just fine).
✨ Roasted Rosemary Almonds - One of my favorite snacks is lightly salted rosemary almonds. It takes only 5-7 minutes to make these if you use blanched almond slivers. I didn’t have any on hand when preparing and taking pictures for this post, so I chopped up some whole almonds instead and it worked just fine. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add roughly 1-2 cups of almonds and toast by stirring frequently. When they are just beginning to brown, turn off the heat, add one to two tablespoons of freshly chopped rosemary and salt to taste. Stir, let cool and store in an airtight container. These too make a nice gift.
✨ Rosemary Shortbread - This is another one of my favorite ways to use fresh rosemary, and I love the savory/sweet blend of flavor. Again, these make for a nice gift if you package them up on a pretty china plate. I often buy a few pieces of china at second hand stores to keep on hand, as they are nice to give away when you are gifting many types of baked goods. You don’t need a special recipe for this either, though you can find many on the internet if you decide to search for one. I like to use the recipe from 101 Cookbooks that also includes pine nuts. Regardless, you can simply add a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped rosemary to the flour mixture in a shortbread cookie recipe to make these. Tip for those that prefer to eat gluten-free - shortbread is one of those recipes that you can easily swap out a good gluten free flour mix for all purpose flour and be pleased with the resulting little impact on the texture of your baked cookie.
Using Rosemary to Deter Pests
If you’ve planted an abundance of rosemary like I did this year, you can prune your plants to your hearts content for both cooking and to ward off pests. Try tying up little sprigs with a bit of raffia ribbon and place these little bundles on your window sills to repel spiders, flies and ants. Mosquitos aren’t crazy about the strong aroma of rosemary either; yet another reason to have a pot or two of this on your deck or wherever you have your outdoor dining area in the summer. Just give your plant a little tickle or two before you get ready to sit down to dine.
Rosemary Essential Oil
At this point, it probably will come as no surprise that rosemary is also one of my favorite essential oils. First a quick word of caution here - rosemary essential oil should be avoided by pregnant women as it can stimulate menstrual flow. It also should be avoided by those with epilepsy or hypertension. If you don’t fall into one of these categories, its use has numerous applications including stimulation of hair growth and fighting off infection. I diffuse it if I am a bit congested or feel like I am coming down with something. However I also use it quite frequently to help me concentrate. I diffuse a blend of a few drops of rosemary, one or two drops of vetiver and either a couple of drops of peppermint (if I’m low on energy) or a couple drops of lavender (if I’m seeking a calmer vibe). I’ve found these to be incredibly powerful blends for helping me to concentrate.
I’ll wrap up this post by sharing that rosemary has become a universal symbol of love and remembrance. So if you decide to gift it at any time, you may add a little note to this effect to your gift as well. And in the meantime, if you are new to cultivating a fondness for this beauty or have had trouble caring for one, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. With love, Julie