As ANZAC Day approaches on April 25, we are reminded that sprigs of fresh rosemary are pinned to lapels symbolising remembrance of the WWI soldiers who lost their lives at Gallipoli. Lest we forget.
I am reminded, too, that in my childhood whenever my family attended occasions such as weddings and funerals, there was always a doorman greeting guests with a tiny bunch of rosemary tied with a white ribbon and pearl topped pin.
In Spice Notes, his fat compendium on herbs and spices, trader, Ian ‘Herbie’ Hemphill, writes ‘rosemary’s association with memory, lover’s fidelity and remembrance is a long one'. Herbie’s own mother, who penned this country’s first book on herbs in the 1950s, was christened Rosemary in memory of her older sister who had tragically died at the age of just three months. According to my old copy of Larousse, the name ‘comes from the Latin rosmarinous or rose of the sea. How lovely.
Rosemary is a perennial shrub not a herb per se, but the pungent savoury aroma lends itself beautifully to culinary and medicinal uses. I cannot imagine a roast leg of lamb or standing rack of lamb without rosemary (with black pepper and garlic, of course!). The tender shoots of young rosemary, combined with sea salt, caramelised onions and good olive oil flavour a potato pizza beautifully. You can also use rosemary sparingly to flavour desserts, such custards and poached fruit.
One of the more memorable and, I must say, deliciously different rosemary morsels I’ve ever enjoyed is thinly coated tempura sprigs served atop a perfectly cooked pepper steak.
Peter and I have a small rosemary shrub growing in a pot just outside the French doors off my kitchen and I love that we can just step outside and snip off fresh sprigs whenever needed. I must admit, however, if we're ever out walking and I see a flourishing rosemary bush, the urban forager in me simply cannot help but break off a tiny piece to take home. Ssshhh. It's my secret.
Fresh rosemary will keep for a week or two in a vase, but do change the water regularly. And, in closing, a handy hint from Herbie: wrap fresh sprigs of rosemary in aluminium foil and pop them into a plastic container into the freezer and they will keep for months!
Tell me, do you grow rosemary in your kitchen garden? Do you have memories of rosemary? And what is your favourite recipe using rosemary as an ingredient or flavour enhancer?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.