Remember me, Rosemary?
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
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Let’s take a look at Rosemary, a wonderfully aromatic perennial shrub with a long history of practical and mystical uses. Along with Lavender and Thyme, Rosemary is a member of the mint family. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, it’s easy to identify – under normal conditions, it grows to about one meter, and sometimes as tall as two meters. Its dark green needle-like leaves, about a centimeter long, and its distinctive fragrance are unmistakable.
The Rich History of Rosemary Rosemary has long been believed to strengthen the memory, and is associated with remembrance and loyalty in popular culture. Historically, it’s been associated with both death and weddings for the same reason - remembrance.
Rosemary was considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Greek scholars used to braid rosemary into their hair when studying, hoping to enhance their memory.
In the Middle Ages, Rosemary was used in wedding ceremonies, as a headpiece for the bride and sprigs for the groom and guests. In the 16th Century in England, wealthy couples often gifted wedding guests with a gilded branch of Rosemary. And Henry the Eighth’s 4th wife, Anne of Cleves, wore a Rosemary wreath at their wedding. There are many references to Rosemary in the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps the most famous one is in Hamlet, when Ophelia says “There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember!”
Folklore from the 14th Century held that Rosemary root “seethed in wine vinegar” could be used to wash the feet of thieves in order to sap their strength and stop them from stealing. An interesting, if somewhat convoluted, method of crime prevention!
In the 16th Century, thin boards from large Rosemary bushes were used to make lutes and other musical instruments, as well as other tools. The French believed that combing hair with a rosemary-wood comb would prevent over-excitement. The wood became so valuable that traders were known to substitute cheaper wood, scented with Rosemary oil, for unsuspecting customers. Rosemary continues to be used for remembrance during commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia.
Rosemary’s Medicinal Uses
Rosemary’s marvelous fragrance often signifies good eating and celebrations, but it could just as easily signify physical well-being. In traditional medicine, Rosemary has long been a popular ingredient in tonics and liniments.
In the 13th Century, the Queen of Hungary became paralyzed, and is said to have been cured by rubbing Rosemary-infused wine into her limbs. This preparation, known as Queen of Hungary Water, became very popular as a remedy for gout, skin problems, dandruff, and to prevent baldness.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Rosemary was sold in apothecaries as a cure for gout and as a digestive aid. In London in 1603, Rosemary was believed to protect against the Bubonic plague. Its price rose to six shillings for a handful, not too shabby when the price of an entire “fat pig” was just one shilling. In 1888, the town of Arnedillo in Spain credited Rosemary smoke with saving it from a smallpox epidemic. And historically, French hospitals burned rosemary to clear the air and prevent infection.
Rosemary’s therapeutic value has been reaffirmed by modern research. It’s been proven to help stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and reduce inflammation. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral characteristics.
In French homeopathic medicine, Rosemary is used for all kinds of aches and pains. French homeopathic pharmacies, recognizable by their green crosses, offer Rosemary teas, Rosemary creams, and other Rosemary-based remedies.
Rosemary tea is made by brewing the leaves and stem of the rosemary herb, and it offers many health benefits:
• Skin Care, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties • Improved Circulation, because it’s an anticoagulant • Cognitive Function, as it’s proven to stimulate memory • Digestive Aid, known to help a range of digestive issues • Anti-Inflammation, relieving arthritis, muscle and joint pain • Pain Relief, Rosemary’s function is similar to aspirin • Liver Tonic, improving the health and function of the liver • Stress Relief, lowering stress hormone levels and reducing anxiety • Circulation Booster, as it stimulates blood flow • Migraine Remedy, the aroma of Rosemary reduces migraine symptoms
Natural Personal Care with Rosemary
Rosemary oil was first extracted in the 14th century, when it was used to make the famous Queen of Hungary Water. Today, Rosemary oil is an ingredient in many toiletry and home products. Rosemary offers many beauty benefits – from moisturizing your skin to fighting off free radicals.
Rosemary kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses on the skin, so it’s great for skin problems. The oil helps stimulate cell renewal to promote healthy healing while infusing the skin with moisture, and improving skin’s circulation. You can use Rosemary tea as a scrub for the head, helping to improve your hair’s nutrients and also getting rid of dandruff. And Rosemary’s antibacterial properties help protect against hair loss.
The famous French aromatherapy company Florame one of the first companies to develop organic cosmetics, offers products made using all-natural processes and materials, and many feature Rosemary (Romarin) from Provence. And L'Occitane which was established to celebrate the traditions of Provence, actually started its business by selling an essential oil of Rosemary and lavender at Provencale markets.
L’Occitane began making soap and continues to be based in the town of Manosque in Provence, and its first factory and boutique opened in the Provencale village of Volx. Another Provencale company, Pré de Provence famous for its traditional all natural handmade soaps, offers a Rosemary Mint soap bar based on a recipe from 1828.
Rosemary in Cooking
Native to the Mediterranean, Rosemary was a part of French cooking even before the Greeks and Romans, with their own cuisines, arrived in France some 2,000 years ago. Apart from Rosemary’s use as a herb on its own, it is part of France’s most important herb groups, Les Fine Herbes and the Herbes de Provence.
Rosemary leaves have a pungent, slightly bitter taste and are generally used sparingly to season foods, especially lamb, duck, chicken, sausage, seafood, stews, and soups, along with vegetables like tomatoes and root vegetables, as well as beverages. Really, its uses in the kitchen are pretty much endless, as you’ll find when you experiment with it. To use Rosemary, strip the leaves from the stem, and chop. You can store fresh Rosemary up to one week in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. Add late summer stems onto your hot grill to infuse meats with its flavor.
Here are some typical Provencale dishes that highlight Rosemary:
Tartelettes au Mirabelles et au Romarin – little tarts made with France’s Mirabelle plum and flavored with Rosemary
Carré d'Agneau Rôti au Thym et au Romarin – rack of lamb roasted with Rosemary and thyme
Compote de Mangues au Romarin – mango compote flavored with Rosemary
Mignon de Veau à la Fondue d’Oignon, Jus de Viande au Romarin – veal tenderloin served on very well cooked onions, like an onion jam, and served with meat juices flavored with Rosemary
Filet d'Agneau aux Senteurs d’Ail et Romarin, Écrasé de Patates Douces – lamb lamb fillet scneted with garlic and Rosemary and served with rough-mashed sweet potatoes
Fraîcheur de Melon et Mousse de Chèvre au Romarin – chilled melon served with a Rosemary-flavored goat’s cheese mousse
Calamars Grillés au Romarin, Salade de Roquettes et Copeaux de Parmesan – Rosemary-grilled squid served with arugula salad and shaved parmesan
Pêche Rôtie au Miel et Romarin – honey and Rosemary-roasted peach
For more ideas on Provencal cuisine and recipes, view our full article on the iconic foods of southern France CLICK HERE .
Rosemary in Provence
Typically, Rosemary flowers in Provence in spring and summer, but when it’s warm enough, the plants can bloom constantly. Its small blossoms – white, pink, purple, or deep blue -- are very attractive to bees, resulting in some lovely local honeys. Look for Rosemary honey and other Rosemary-based Provencale products at the wonderful food markets that take place throughout Provence.
One wonderful Provencale chocolate maker, Joel Durand features provencale rosemary in a number of his confections – dark chocolate and rosemary ganache, salted butter and rosemary caramel cream. For over 20 years, Joel has been making unique and delicious chocolates by hand in his workshop in St. Remy de Provence.
If you're planning your herb-themed Provencale vacation, Click Here
Rosemary at Provence Paradise Next time you visit Provence in Southern France, consider staying in an authentic townhouse rather than a hotel. Here at Provence Paradise each of our townhouses has its own herb garden and we are very proud of our hardy rosemary plants.
Rosemary is a very hardy plant that grows well from cuttings, so it’s one of the first herbs we planted in our townhouse gardens. While you’re here, spend some time getting to know these wonderful plants.
The best time to harvest your rosemary for its delicious leaves is in the morning, just after the dew has evaporated. You can snip rosemary stems to use fresh, or cut a bunch to dry. Here are some ideas on how to take advantage of the Rosemary in your townhouse garden:
Breath Freshener – steep Rosemary leaves in hot water, then gargle with it to eliminate bacteria and naturally freshen your breath
Drinks – whether it’s detox water, refreshing summer coolers, or sophisticated cocktails, you’ll love the flavor Rosemary adds to your beverages
Hair – add to your shampoo for Rosemary’s hair and scalp benefits
Herbal Butter – add garlic and Rosemary to softened butter to perk up your meats, vegetables, and breads
Household – add Rosemary oil to your cleaning products
Magic – try burning rosemary to invoke visions, for love spells, and to clear interior spaces of negativity. Place sachets of dried Rosemary under your pillow to dispel nightmares
Memory – inhale the fragrance of Rosemary for meditation and concentration
Simmer Pot – gently simmer Rosemary with water in a saucepan to scent your home. Add other aromatics as you like
Tea – steep fresh or dried Rosemary leaves and stems in hot water and sweeten to taste
Vinegars and Oils – make a simple vinegar or oil infusion to use in your salad dressings and marinades, or as a dipping sauce for crusty breads
Stay at Provence Paradise in St. Remy de Provence and conveniently explore the local sites and enjoy its culinary specialties.
For more ideas or for booking your own vacation rental, Click Here