Rosemary. The cherished herb of newlyweds, Simon & Garfunkel, and lousy gardeners like me.

lemon-rosemary-poundcake

We received the most beautiful rosemary plant as a housewarming gift. Sadly, my two thumbs must be positively green-free, as the herbaceous beauty isn’t exactly flourishing under my care. Desperate to savor what’s left of my plant I’ve attempted to use rosemary wherever I can – cooking and baking alike. Dinner last night? Chicken with caramelized mushrooms, white wine and rosemary. The night before? Chicken with roasted root vegetables and rosemary. A sweet treat I pawned off on my babysitter…Lemon pound cake with rosemary. I’m running out of ideas and, it seems, green leaves.

Sigh. A tribute to my little rosemary plant that couldn’t…a blog post for my favorite foodie friends.

Rosemary is a wonderfully aromatic herb, offering nice complement to a variety of flavors including chicken, lamb, turkey, and root vegetables. The herb is native to the Mediterranean area, explaining its appearance in said cuisine. However, flavor isn’t the only culinary benefit of this particular herb. Not only has rosemary demonstrated antimicrobial properties, but rosemary extract has made an appearance in many food labs as a natural food additive for delaying the onset of oxidation and off flavors.

Contrary to the appearance of my plant, the thoughtfulness of this housewarming gift wasn’t lost on me. The folklore behind the plant is heartwarming, as it is associated with remembrance, union, love, and family. It seems rosemary has been used for many purposes throughout history: worn by scholars to improve memory, planted outside to repel witches, used at weddings as a symbol of love and union, and put under pillows to ward off nightmares. (The men of yesteryear used to rip up flourishing rosemary plants outside their homes in attempt to reclaim their head-of-house status, as it has been said “where rosemary flourishes the lady rules.”  Something tells me my hubby would find this bit of folklore far too interesting, considering the state of my plant.)

What I’ve done to my plant is nothing short of embarrassing – I’ve already boasted plans to start an herb garden off our deck. I promise I’m much better cooking with fresh herbs than I am growing them! I’ve tried more water, less water, more sunlight, less sunlight…. How can I revive my rosemary plant? Do I need to re-pot? Oh, foodie friends, where have I gone wrong?

A Food Science Tid-Bite: Using fresh herbs is a great way to boost flavor (and aroma) in your cooking. If using flat leaves like basil or sage, many cooks do a quick chiffonade and cut the herbs into thin ribbons. (To chiffonade, stack the leaves then roll the leaves tightly like a jelly roll. Slice the rolled up leaves horizontally into shreds.) When using herbs like thyme and rosemary, the leaves must first be stripped from the woody stalk and chopped before addition. 

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