Growing as a woody, evergreen shrub, rosemary can reach heights of up to six feet, though many cultivated varieties are smaller. The plant's linear leaves, dark green on top and silvery underneath, resemble those of pine needles. When crushed, they release a strong, piney scent with underlying notes of camphor. Rosemary is drought-resistant, thriving in well-draining soil with ample sunlight, echoing its Mediterranean origins. Beyond its culinary use, rosemary essential oil, extracted from the leaves, is popular in aromatherapy and natural wellness practices.
Rosemary's history is as rich as its aroma. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had cultural and medicinal applications for the herb. The Greeks often associated it with memory and used it as a symbol of remembrance during rituals and ceremonies. In Roman culture, it was a symbol of fidelity, and sprigs were used in wedding ceremonies. Over the centuries, rosemary spread throughout Europe and eventually to the New World, where its various uses—from warding off evil spirits to its incorporation in folk remedies—only expanded its reputation and popularity.
In the culinary realm, rosemary's potent flavour means it's often used sparingly, but its impact on dishes is unmistakable. Whole sprigs can be added to roasting meats, imparting a deep flavour throughout the cooking process. The leaves can be finely chopped and sprinkled into bread doughs, biscuit mixes, or even pizza crusts for an aromatic twist.
Rosemary-infused oils are popular for dressings and drizzles, and the herb pairs exceptionally well with roasted vegetables, especially root varieties like potatoes and carrots. Rosemary's affinity for lamb is notable, with the two often considered a classic pairing.
Beyond savoury dishes, rosemary has found its way into the world of desserts, with rosemary-infused creams, custards, and even ice creams becoming popular among gourmet chefs. Regardless of the dish, rosemary's strong character means a little often goes a long way, ensuring its presence is felt but not overpowering.