Growing rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) can be a breeze in warm climates. Since it does well as a houseplant, it can also be grown easily in colder climates if brought indoors in winter. There are now also frost tolerant rosemary varieties that are hardy to Zone 5. For some modern, cold hardy cultivars, take a look at my post: Growing Rosemary in Cold Climates.
Special Notes: Rosemary benefits from the addition of lime. A natural solution is to add crushed eggshells to the soil around the plant. I've read that it should be composted first, but I've been adding fresh, pulverized egg shells to my lime loving plants for years with no problems.
It can be tricky keeping rosemary indoors if you don't maintain high humidity in the area around the plant. Try spritzing regularly, and keep a tray of pebbles filled with water under the plant or nearby. Mulching the soil around the top of the plant is a good idea too. Don't assume that higher humidity also means keeping the plant well-watered in winter. A little judicious neglect (watering wise) is better for your rosemary and will keep it in good shape until spring rolls around again. Last winter I watered my rosemary plants four times in three months. That's it. I kept them humid though, and spritzed the mulch every once in a while.
Using Rosemary in Cooking
Rosemary can be difficult to use if you don't know the tricks. The dried leaves are tough and can be prickly in delicate dishes like soups unless it has been minced fine to distribute the flavor and soften the skin. When used fresh, it's always best to retain the whole sprig, removing it before serving your prepared dish. As a marinade ingredient, the leaves can be brushed from the meat before cooking.
I enjoy ground rosemary on roasted potatoes, whole sprigs as a seasoning for minestrone and beef stew, and in a marinade for leg of lamb. It also makes a great garnish, an attractive base for an herb wreath, and an impressive and aromatic houseplant.
Rosemary tea is really good for headaches. Try steeping a sprig of fresh or a tablespoon of dry rosemary in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Strain and drink. I always sweeten the tea with honey.
Below I've provided my favorite rosemary marinade. Let me know what you think.
Rosemary Marinade for Lamb
I use this marinade for leg of lamb, preparing and applying it the night before. I turn the lamb four or five times over the course of 24 hours and then cook it on a rotisserie.
I have also had it butterflied by the butcher (bone removed), marinated it, and then grilled it. If the leg is small enough, it can be marinated in a plastic bag, otherwise I use a large plastic bin. If I have trouble getting the marinade to make good contact with the lamb, I use a turkey baster each time I turn it.
½ Cup of Lemon Juice
½ Cup of Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons of Red Wine
1 Large Sprig of Fresh Rosemary (about 2 Tablespoons)
5 Cloves of Garlic, Minced Fine
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Mint, Minced Fine
1 Teaspoon of Fresh Thyme
1 Tablespoon Cracked Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Paprika Powder (sweet)
I baste with the marinade as the lamb cooks. I will typically under cook the lamb, preferring to serve it when it is still pink. This will be several degrees below the recommended internal temperature in most cookbooks. The FDA safety guidelines are clear on the potential hazards of undercooked meat, so use your own best judgment. I'm just telling you what I prefer.
For more thoughts about rosemary, visit my post: Rosemary for Remembrance
Labels: Photo Courtesy of Morguefile