A native of the Mediterranean region, rosemary (meaning ‘dew of the sea’) is one of the most aromatic and pungent herbs around. With such an incredible fragrance and flavor, it’s easy to see why so many people cultivate rosemary in their homes and gardens.
Here’s all you need to know about harvesting and using rosemary for culinary and medicinal purposes.
How to Harvest & Prepare Rosemary
Harvest your rosemary plant at any time – a daily or weekly pruning will actually contribute to a full and healthy plant. Simply snip the top two or three inches off each sprig and use as you desire.
If you’re looking for an even bigger bounty, wait until the plant has begun to bloom and then remove the top few inches from each sprig, being careful not to cut the plant too close.
Preserve your rosemary by bundling the clippings and hanging them upside down to dry in a warm area for approximately 10 to 14 days, Once dry, strip the stems (adding to the compost pile) and store the leaves in an air-tight jar.
Use your freshly harvested or dried rosemary in the following ways:
As a Food:
With a strong flavor, a little rosemary goes a long way to season your favorite meals and snacks. Some of the most popular culinary uses of rosemary include:
1. Vinegars and Oils
One of the easiest ways of preserving the flavors of rosemary is by making a simple vinegar or oil infusion. Best of all, you don’t need any specialized equipment!
This delicious oregano, rosemary and marjoram vinegar is perfect for use in salad dressings, marinades and other recipes requiring vinegar. Likewise, a simple rosemary olive oil can be used for all these recipes and more – including as a healthy drizzle over cooked vegetables or as a dipping sauce for crusty breads. Both these infusions also make a beautiful homemade gift for friends and family.
2. Herbal Butter
For a flavored butter to liven up cooked meats and vegetables, pasta, potatoes and breads, all while utilizing your homegrown rosemary, look no further than this garlic and rosemary butter recipe.
3. Rosemary Salt
A simple grilled fish dish or plate of roast vegetables can be elevated to new heights with a sprinkling of this surprisingly easy-to-make rosemary and lemon sea salt. As the name suggests, this ‘recipe’ calls for just three ingredients!
4. Sauces and Soups
Rosemary plays a starring role in all manner of sauces and soups. When it comes to making marinades, you can’t go wrong pairing rosemary with citrus, garlic, peppercorn, butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or even port.
In soups, the herb pairs well with sweet potato, roast mixed vegetables, chicken, potato, zucchini, chickpea or parsnip to name but a few.
5. Salads and Salad Dressings
Rosemary isn’t a classic salad herb but it works wonders in a number of refreshing summer dishes.
Give it a go in a simple heirloom tomato salad; in an Italian potato salad with lemon and capers; or atop grapes and feta cheese! Other impressive salad recipes which utilize rosemary vinaigrette include this one made with roasted butternut squash and tangerines, or this grilled peach delight.
6. Breads and Pastas
Plain pasta and bread can easily be dressed up with the addition of rosemary oil or vinegar, but don’t stop at serving the herb on your bread or pasta – mix it into the dough of these delicious staples too.
Sticking with its Mediterranean roots, we especially like a good rosemary focaccia bread or a rosemary and black pepper fettucine.
Herbs aren’t just delicious in savory dishes – they lend an incredible depth of flavor to a great many desserts too, as rosemary proves in the following recipes.
A light lemon and rosemary sorbet is a delicious palate cleanser, while these apple and rosemary mini pies are the perfect sweet for Afternoon Tea. For something more indulgent, how about a slice of lemon and rosemary coffee cake or a rosemary and dark chocolate shortbread bar?
From simple detox water to delicious cocktails, rosemary gives an added kick to your favorite tipples.
Stay hydrated all summer long with a grapefruit and rosemary infused water or a sparkling rosemary limeade. Sweet iced tea always hits the spot too – especially this lemon and rosemary version. To take your juicing to the next level, try an apple, pear and rosemary blend.
Finally, let loose in the evenings with a rosemary gimlet gin or a lemon and rosemary bourbon sour.
9. General Cooking
The myriad of ways to use fresh rosemary in the kitchen doesn’t end here – it works in everything from quiches and stir fries to stews and roasts. Experiment with your rosemary harvest and discover how versatile this pungent herb really is!
As a Medicine:
Like many herbs, rosemary is a potent alternative to conventional treatments for a number of ailments. Here’s how to harness its therapeutic properties:
10. Rosemary Essential Oil
One of the perks of growing herbs is that you can use them to distill your own high-quality, organic essential oil, allowing you to reap its many health benefits. In particular, rosemary essential oil can be used for relief from anxiety, indigestion, headache, joint pain, cold and flu, poor circulation and much more besides. To make your own rosemary essential oil, follow the steps outlined in this tutorial.
For an easier-to-make rosemary oil, which is slightly less potent, simply infuse your rosemary leaves in a carrier oil like jojoba or olive for three to six weeks, leaving the jar in a sunny position. This can be used for mental clarity, aching muscles and relaxing massages.
11. Natural Deodorant
Did you know you can safely ditch your chemical laden deodorants while still smelling sweet by simply changing your diet?
In fact, one of the most natural ways to improve your body odor is to add more herbs like rosemary, basil, parsley, mint and sage to your meals!
Discover even more ways to reduce your body odor through diet and natural products here.
12. Strong and Shiny Hair
If you’re on a mission to improve the health of your hair and scalp, then start harvesting your rosemary plant.
A strong infusion of rosemary and nettle leaf makes for a great post-shampoo herbal hair rinse. Not only does its antimicrobial properties help reduce dandruff, but it stimulates blood flow which speeds hair growth when used regularly.
In addition, research has shown that certain essential oils including rosemary lead to faster growth and improved hair quality by removing impurities, unblocking hair follicles and stimulating the scalp. Mix a blend of lavender, thyme, rosemary, cedarwood and peppermint into your shampoo and massage into the scalp weekly.
13. Relief from Congestion
Whether you’re suffering a stuffed up nose or chest congestion, the power of rosemary coupled with the age old remedy of steam treatment (which has been used to enhance health for thousands of years) is guaranteed to bring you relief. What’s more, it’s fast acting and completely safe.
Boil water in a pot or kettle and transfer immediately to a large, heat proof bowl. Stir in two spoons of fresh or dried rosemary – a natural antiseptic that helps open nasal passages. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl, positioning the towel to keep in as much steam as possible. Breathe in the vapors for up to ten minutes.
14. Improve Cognitive Performance
Diffusing your homemade rosemary oil or simply sipping on a cup of rosemary tea can help boost mental clarity and enhance cognitive performance, according to research.
This healing herb may also significantly prevent the aging of your brain, keeping you sharp right into old age thanks to its carnosic acid content which fights off free radical damage.
15. Natural Pain Relief
Rosemary is used to relieve the pain of heartburn and intestinal gas when enjoyed as a tea. Applied topically, the oil can lessen the severity of toothaches, eczema, gout, headaches and joint or muscle pain.
In fact, in recognition of its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, the German Commission E (the scientific advisory board of the German version of the FDA) has approved rosemary essential oil to treat both muscle pain and arthritis.
16. Stress and Anxiety Buster
Next time you’re feeling nervous, overwhelmed, burnt out or simply exhausted from the day’s events, head straight for your potted rosemary plant.
A 2009 study found that the use of sachets containing lavender and rosemary scents helped reduce the anxiety associated with test-taking by graduate nursing students. The nurses who sniffed the sachets scored lower on anxiety measures and had lower pulse rates, indicating a more relaxed state of mind.
This backs up the findings of an earlier study, which showed that smelling rosemary oil actually decreased the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the saliva.
Whether you choose to breathe in the steam from a cup of freshly poured herbal tea, add sprigs of the herb to a soothing bath, or simply inhale the scent of the plant, you’re sure to feel your stress and anxiety slip away.
17. Oral Health
For perfect oral health, harness the power of herbs. Rosemary’s antimicrobial properties mean it will kill off the bad bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease and will even rid you of bad breath.
Simply boil or steep four rosemary sprigs and four whole cloves in two cups of water until you’re left with a potent homemade mouthwash. You can also choose to add a few drops of rosemary oil to your regular or homemade toothpaste.
(Find out why homemade toothpastes beat the store-bought variety hands-down here.)
18. Skin Health
Rosemary infused oil or rosemary essential oil can be used topically (once appropriately diluted) for a whole host of skin irritations such as acne or eczema. It may even help speed the healing of wounds and bruises when used externally.
In the Home:
The pleasant aroma of rosemary, coupled with its antimicrobial powers, mean it’s a great addition to any home. Here are just a couple of ways to use it:
19. Simmer Pots
Simmer pots are one of the easiest ways to make your home smell amazing. Simply fill a saucepan with water, bring to a boil then add your favorite fragranced fruits, herbs and spices. Leave the pot to simmer gently on the stove top, topping up the water when needed, and soon the scent will fill your entire house. (A crock pot works well too, especially if you’re too busy to keep an eye on the stove.)
Some delicious rosemary-inspired simmer pot combinations include:
- Sliced oranges, cranberries, cinnamon and rosemary
- Orange, juniper and rosemary
- Grapefruit, rosemary and vanilla
- Lemon and rosemary
20. Pest Deterrent
Keep your home free from pests by placing sprigs of rosemary by the doors and windows. You can also spray a mixture of 10 drops of rosemary essential oil per one cup of water. This works to repel all manner of insects.
Rosemary is also said to deter mice – some people even suggest placing dried rosemary sprigs in the backs of cupboards to ward of rodents during the winter.