“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” – Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Ophelia
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) – Christians referred to rosemary the “Holy Herb,” associated with Mary, who, according to Spanish legend, draped her cloak over a rosemary bush on the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, turning the color of the blossoms from white to blue.
Rosemary was once used by the poor or lower classes as a substitute for expensive frankincense or myrrh-based incense in ancient Greece and Rome. Before the advent of modern medicine rosemary was burned, along with juniper berries, as a disinfectant in French hospitals.
Romantically, rosemary’s legend grew in the 14th century, when 72-year-old Queen Elizabeth of Hungary used rosemary as a medicine for her rheumatism and gout. Her potion of rosemary and lavender supposedly so enhanced her health and beauty that it fanned the passions of the 26-year-old King of Poland, who requested her hand in marriage. The potion became known as Budapest or Hungary water and was the beauty aide of choice for women for hundreds of years.
Rosemary for cooking, a favorite winter herb, I use it fresh and dried. One of my favorite ways to cook with rosemary is to put a sprig in the body cavity of a game hen before roasting. Or, drizzle a little olive oil over new potatoes or whole fingering potatoes, then sprinkle a little salt, and a few crushed rosemary leaves before baking.
Rosemary tea is made by steeping a short sprig in hot water for about 5 minutes. Or, put a teaspoon of dried rosemary in a warmed teapot and add a cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes.
Medicinally, rosemary tea is said to be good for colds, flu, indigestion, headache and fatigue. It is an antioxidant, antiseptic, antidepressant, a circulatory stimulant. Rosemary is a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc.