Rosemary is an aromatic plant which has been considered important for centuries for its culinary uses and medicinal properties. The binomial name is Rosemarinus officinalis. Rosemarinus means ‘due of the sea’. Rosemary is a native to the Mediterranean area of Southern Europe. The appeal of rosemary is high because of the belief that it stimulated and strengthened the memory. It is still used mostly for said purposes.
The plant is a stiff, bushy shrub, much branched, with a characteristic aromatic fragrance. Leaves are 2 to 4 mm wide. They are greenish and crinkled on top and covered with densely matted woolly hairs underneath.
In Europe, rosemary is associated with remembrance and as such is used in funerals and weddings. To symbolize remembrance of the deceased, mourners used to drop rosemary sprigs into grave. Shakespeare’s hamlet too mentions about the plant. The mentally unhealthy character in the drama, Ophelia, bubbling about her father’s death states: “There’s rosemary- that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember.” Rosemary leaves and flowers were entwined the wreath worn by brides. A branch of rosemary, decorated with silk ribbons, was presented to wedding guests as a symbol of love and loyalty.
It is one of the most common aromatic plants of the Mediterranean landscape. The plant grows abundantly in Spain, Greece, Southern France, Portugal and Italy. Rosemary is also found in Algeria, Middle east, Russia, Romania, China, Turkey, Tunisia, Serbia and Morocco. It is also seen in India where it is called rusmari.
Rosemary tea is used as a tonic for digestive tract and the gall bladder. It is prepared by steeping flowers and leaves of the plant in boiling water. It is known to cure bad breath and mouth infections. Hence it is used as an antiseptic gargle and a mouthwash. In Tunisia, rosemary leaves are consumed to relieve spasms and to expel intestinal parasites. The essential oil of rosemary forms part of many antibacterial medicines for the respiratory passages.
It also has many culinary uses. French, Italian and Spanish cooking use rosemary extensively to flavor vegetable preparations such as roasted potatoes, stocks, stews, roasted meats and fish.
Rosemary oil distilled from leaves and flowering tops of the plant, is widely applied in the manufacture of soaps, lotions , creams and perfumes. It is also used in processed food products such as frozen desserts, candies and alcoholic beverages.