Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary – Rosmarin

There is no herb more abundant in the Mediterranean region than Rosemary, it grows everywhere.  You do not have to go far to pick some sprigs for your Sunday roast.  The Latin name for Rosemary is ‘Ros marinus’, which means literally ‘sea dew’, probably because it grows all along the Mediterranean coast.  Another theory is that the name comes from the Greek name for Rosemary,  ‘Rhops murinos’, which means ‘fragrant shrub’.   Both the ancient Greeks, as well as the Romans, threaded sprigs of Rosemary into their hair to improve mind and memory.  It soon became a symbol for memory, love and friendship.  Pharaos were buried with branches of Rosemary to remember life on earth and as a symbol for the new life to come.
It is an evergreen aromatic shrub to 2 m, sometimes more.   The branches are brown, tightly covered with pointed, leathery, linear shaped leaves, deep green in colour.  They are positioned opposite and in spirals on the branches.  The leaf margins are turned downwards, the underneath of the leaf is whitish.   Rosemary flowers several times a year.  The flowers are in shades of nearly white to deep blue.  

rosemary flower in close-up

The ‘Eau de la Reine d’Hongarie’ is a cologne that has been used since the 16th century.  The story goes that at the end of the 14th century the  queen of Hungary visited a herbalist who lived as a recluse.  At the time she was 72 years old, was not feeling very well, bent over from rheumatism and gout.  The herbalist, who was quite knowledgeable, told the queen that it was an angel who had told him which herbs to use in his concoction.  After the queen had been using it for a year, she had no more rheumatism or gout, and  looked healthier.  According to the legend she even received a marriage proposal from the king of Poland, but she refused out of love for Jesus Christ, as she really believed the recipe had come from an angel.  It was not till the 16th century that the recipe was found again in Hungary.  Louis XIV got wind of it and tried it out with success.  In a short time the elixir, ‘Eau de la Reine d’Hongarie’, became so famous that loads full of Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram and Lavender, the main ingredients of the elixir, were brought from the south of France to Paris.  The stories about the elixir vary from source to source.  The ingredients can vary as well, but no doubt it has healing properties.
Eau de la Reine d’Hongarie:  This recipe is without Thyme and Marjoram, sometimes Sage is added as well.  If you are using fresh flowers and leaves, the ingredients have to be doubled.  40 grams of dried flowers and leaves of Rosemary and 10 grams of dried flowers and leaves of lavender to 1 litre of gin, cognac or fruit alcohol (27% Vol).  Leave it to macerate for several weeks, strain and bottle.  Take one teaspoon per day on a sugar lump.  It can be used externally as well.   Rub it in where it hurts, whether it is for cramps or rheumatism.
Rosemary’s  medicinal properties help with headaches caused by nervous tension, bad blood circulation and digestion.  It strengthens the nerves and enhances the gall flow.  Rosemary added to a bath, prickles and stimulates the blood circulation, hence it is beneficial for aching muscles, joints and rheumatism.  Rosemary stimulates the mind, for that reason one should never take a bath with Rosemary before going to bed;  but a bath with Rosemary in the morning will set you up for the day!
Rosemary bath:  Bring 100 grams of fresh Rosemary or 50 grams of dried Rosemary to the boil in 0.5 litres of water, let it simmer for 20 mins.  Strain and add the mixture to your bath water.
Rosemary wine:  If you are suffering from water retention or a weak stomach, the follow is for you:  Macerate 30 grams of dried Rosemary (60 grams fresh) in 1 litre of red wine for 48 hours.  Strain, bottle, drink a small glass morning and night.
Essential oil of Rosemary has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.    For people who have to drive long distances, sprinkle a few drops of essential oil of Rosemary on a handkerchief.  From time to time take a sniff and you’ll find that you stay alert.
It is used frequently in the kitchen,  added to roasts, stews, vinegar and even to desserts.

Oven baked chips

Cut the potatoes in large chunky pieces, sprinkle with olive oil, just enough to coat the potatoes with a light film of oil.  Put into the oven (220 C).  Shake them every ten minutes.  After 30-35  minutes they should be light golden brown, add a handful of  Rosemary leaves, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Return the potatoes to the oven for another 10 minutes.   Check from time to time that the chips do not get too brown.  It tastes absolutely delicious.

Greek Roast Lamb

One of the classic Greek ways of roasting lamb is to make several incisions all over a leg of lamb.  Fill them alternately with slivers of garlic and small springs of Rosemary.  Rub the meat with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.  Put the meat in a roasting tin, place some potatoes around the roast.  Pour a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and a cup of water over the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and origano.  You may need to add a bit more water during the roasting time.  The usual cooking time for a joint applies.

Veal with Rosemary

Ingredients:  1 onion, 3 tablespoons olive oil; 2 cloves garlic; 1 kg lean veal cut in cubes; salt and pepper to taste; 225 gr of fresh tomatoes (tinned tomatoes can be substituted); 150 ml dry white wine, 3 sprigs of Rosemary.
Fry the meat until brown on all sides.  Add the onion, when golden add the crushed garlic.   Fry until brown on all sides.  Add salt and pepper.  Peel and chop  the tomatoes into  small pieces, add to the veal stew.  Pour in the wine, add the sprigs of Rosemary.  Cover the pan.  Bring to boiling point, simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Baked Fish with Rosemary

Ingredients:  olive oil; 4 firm fish steaks (225 gr each); salt and pepper to taste; 100 gr shallots; 650 gr. tomatoes; 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary.
Brush four pieces of foil with olive oil.  Sprinkle the fish steaks with salt and pepper on each side and lay them on to the foil.  Chop the shallots and sprinkle them over the fish.  Skin and chop the tomatoes finely and put them onto the fish steaks.  Sprinkle chopped Rosemary over the steaks.  Dribble some olive oil over and wrap up the foil.  Put the parcels on an oven tray.  Bake in the oven (180C) for 25 minutes.  

Bibliography:  Kruidenleer Rozemarijn – Chris Raes;  Mediterranean Wild Flowers – Marjorie Blamey/Christopher Grey Wilson;  Encyclopedia of Herbs – Deni Bown;  Home Book of Greek Cookery – Joyce M. Stubbs; Web


About seasonalforaging

We are a group of friends who enjoy walking in the countryside in Provence searching for plants and herbs to identify and use.
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