Rosemary improves brainpower
Herb of the month follows the theme of my favourite herbs. For June I have chosen Rosemary.
Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis – is a well known and much loved herb. A member of the mint family it has been used for many centuries for culinary, medicinal and decorative purposes.
A bushy, evergreen shrub loves a climate similar to the Mediterranean and can grow up to 1.5m/5 ft tall. It’s leathery leaves, almost needle like, can vary in colour from a deep shiny green with a silvery underside to an almost blue grey. Small purply blue flowers add to the visual appeal and the whole plant is loaded with volatile oil which release a fabulous aroma when bruised. Rosemary is easiest grown from cuttings in a sunny location with well drained soil. Regular trimming ensures steady growth and to prevent the plant becoming woody you must prune it after flowering.
There are many ways of utilising rosemary in the kitchen. Leaves or whole sprigs are used in meat dishes and stews. Roasted potatoes and other root vegetables benefit from its flavour as do sauces and soups. The leaves make a wonderfully aromatic vinegar and work great in an infused oil.
Rosemary is so versatile it is also used in desserts, drinks, pickles, liqueurs and more. When barbecuing stripped stems on the coals add a great flavour to the food.
Medicinally rosemary infusions are a great tonic and ease digestive problems. Also said to be good for respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, colds and coughs. Sip a 1/4 cup of rosemary tea, 4 times a day for no longer than one week. Added to ointments the essential oil fights bacteria and fungal infections as well as heal cuts and bites. Rosemary baths ease muscle aches, bruises, neuralgia and sports injuries.
CAUTION: Do not drink more than one cup of rosemary infusion a day and for no longer than one week. Do not use when pregnant or if you suffer from epilepsy.
Having a rosemary plant in an area of study or work helps improve retention of information. Long a symbol of remembrance burning the oil can improve brainpower and failing memory. I reported on some scientific evidence of this in Rosemary Goes Scientific which basically backed up what so many generations before us already knew.
As usual I like to bring you some of the more unusual uses of herbs, particularly food ideas. These are great to surprise dinner guests and make for great presents too.
Apple, Strawberry and Rosemary Jelly
Those of you that make herbal jellies such as lavender or violet will be familiar with this process.
900g/2 lb cooking apples, washed and chopped (no need to peel or core)
900g/2lb strawberries, washed and halved
7 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely
approx. 1.3kg/3 lb sugar
1.75 l/3 pints water
Combine apples, 5 tablespoons of rosemary and water in a pan. Simmer on a gentle heat until apples are soft and mushy (about 25 mins).
Add the strawberries during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Immerse a jelly bag in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain it and hang securely over a large bowl. If you dont have a jelly bag I find that a sive lined with a sterilised piece of muslin also does the trick.
Strain the fruit mixture through the bag and leave overnight until all the juice has dripped out.
Measure the amount of liquid you have. In a pan combine 450g/1 lb sugar for every 600ml/1 pint of juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and boil until setting point is reached.
Leave to cool for 15 minutes then stir in the remaining rosemary leaves. Transfer to dry, sterilised jars and cover with a lid. Store in a cool and dark place for up to 6 months.
Makes about 1.8kg/4lb
Rosemary Infused Vinegar
600 ml/1 pint white wine or apple cider vinegar
90 ml/6 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
several sprigs or rosemary
Heat vinegar until just under boiling point. Add the chopped rosemary, cover, take off the heat and leave to infuse for 3 days.
Strain vinegar through a muslin lined sieve. Poor into dry, clean bottle(s). Push several sprigs of rosemary, tip pointing upright into the vinegar. Seal with a lid or stopper. This vinegar can be used straight away. If it is to be stored, leave out the sprigs and keep for up to 6 months.
I could seriously write a small recipe book dedicated solely to rosemary.