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ROSEMARY

Rosmarinus officinalis L.

Family : Labiatae

Description

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), a small perennial evergreen shrub belonging to the mint family, is indigenous to the Mediterranean countries and is cultivated in gardens in Europe and the United States. The small narrow leaves (about 2 cm long) have a very spicy odor that makes them valuable as a flavouring and scenting agent. This ancient strewing herb and Romany charm was revered in ancient Greece for its association with memory and became a symbol of faithfulness to lovers. During Medieval times, it was thought to be a protector from evil.

Botany

Rosemary is a dense, woody evergreen perennial that grows up to 3 m. It has bushy stems with cracked grey bark. The young shoots are covered with narrow aromatic, hard leaves which are dark and shiny above and greyish beneath. Small blue flowers on short racemes appear in early summer.

Cultivation

This herb rarely produces seed except under the most favourable conditions, so that it will be necessary to obtain plants or rooted cuttings to start. They are planted in well-drained, alkaline soil, in an exposed area. The plant will make a dense shrub 2 feet in diameter and about 3 feet in height by the end of the second season. Blooming generally begins when the plants are 2 years old or older. Some protection is necessary to prevent winter injury in localities where low temperatures are frequent. The growth can be pruned back several inches once or twice each season after the plants become large enough. The herb from the prunings should be dried on a screen and the leaves stripped from the stems and stored in closed containers.

Rosemary contains about 0.5 - 2.0% volatile oil. Major components found are a-pinene, d-linalool and camphene

Culinary use

Rosemary is a popular culinary flavouring added to meat dishes, baked foods and Mediterranean recipes. The fresh or dried leaves may be used sparingly for special accent with cream soups made of leafy greens, poultry, stews, and sauces. Rosemary oil is used in processed meats for flavouring. Rosemary extract has antioxidant properties in food products.

Medicinal and other use

In addition, it has recently been found to possess antimicrobial activity. Leaves have medicinal properties and are used for treating depression, migraine, and disorders of the liver and digestion. Leaves made into ointment is useful against neuralgia, rheumatism, eczema and minor wounds. They are also used as hair rinses and mouthwashes.

 

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