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"Rosemary for remembrance." So the saying goes. Well then, I need fields and fields of the stuff! Can't remember a blasted thing these days! Can you believe I almost forgot the annual Pesto Judging!?!?!?! We won't even go there! Thank God I remembered in time!
Well, ever onwards . . . this month -- in honour of my memory, or lack thereof -- we will delve into the secrets of rosemary. A friend of mine suggested it would make a good title for a swashbuckling romance. "The Secrets of Rosemary"! But that's for a different column.
First you should try growing it . . . it's a bushy shrub, almost a tree and can grow over six feet in height. It has evergreen needles, dark green on top with a silvery-grey underside. In the spring, it sports tiny blue, almost periwinkle flowers which are highly attractive to bees. It grows most commonly in the Mediterranean, but with some care can do very well in our climate also. However, although I try each year to bring a shrub indoors for the winter . . . it never lasts much past Thanksgiving -- and in Canada that's in October! Not much of a green thumb here! Choose a sheltered, sunny spot in your garden, possibly against a wall or in a corner. Rosemary needs to be kept fairly sheltered from the elements. Depending on the amount of space you have, you might like to choose an upright variety such as Miss Jessup, a dwarf variety such as R. lavandulaceus or try the addition of a white blooming variety such as R. officinalis alba. In spite of my failure with it, if rosemary is grown in a pot, it can be brought inside and away from the ravages of our winters quite successfully.
Its essential oil is powerful and fairly stable. But be careful, very strong, a little rosemary goes a long way. Penzey's recommends it for just about everything from pork and lamb to chicken and fish. Add it to the dough for bread or pizza bases, the cooking liquid for seafood, when boiling potatoes for mashing or salad, in chicken or tomato based soups, there are limitless possibilities.
Use a rosemary controlling lotion to restore lustre and shine to dull, lifeless hair. Pour ten tablespoons of rosemary infusion (tisane) into a stainless steel bowl with one tablespoon of eau de cologne and stir to combine. Slowly add one tablespoon of glycerin beating continuously. Pour into a bottle, seal and label. To use it, just rub a little bit into your scalp, or comb it through your hair.
To make a wonderfully refreshing after bath splash, combine three tablespoons of lemon balm, three tablespoons of rosemary, a thin strip of orange rind, one cup of rosewater and six tablespoons of vodka in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake it vigorously and leave it to infuse for two weeks, shaking it a couple of times each day. Strain it through a non-metallic strainer -- I use cheesecloth -- pressing the herbs to extract the maximum fragrance. Pour it into a bottle, seal well and store in a cool dark place.
And -- as an extra added bonus -- we have some recipes for using rosemary in your kitchen too! Funny that, since this is a cooking magazine. Just remember to remove the sprigs of the herb from the dish before serving. Even when fresh, the rosemary leaves can still be quite sharp.