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Rosemary, dew of the sea

I have been thinking and talking an awful lot about rosemary lately! With my students and in my own life Rosemary seems to be all around. Perhaps it is the spring season, and those lovely little purple flowers that pop between rosemary’s beautiful bounty of green leaves, or perhaps the taste has just been calling to me. Regardless, just as with spring, rosemary gives us a lot to celebrate. A member of the mint family, rosemary is stimulating to the skin and the senses. It can be helpful as a facial steam for relieving acne, dry skin or sinus pressure and as a hair rinse to stimulate hair growth and relieve an itchy scalp. Rosemary is anti-bacterial and has a rich tradition as a culinary herb. It is also renowned amongst herbalist for its nourishing and healing actions on the heart muscle.
There are two types of rosemary commonly found throughout the bay area. One is the upright rosemary with long, thin leaves and the other is crawling, creeping or hanging rosemary that has a tendency to be more decorative and aesthetic. What I call hanging rosemary usually has smaller, dark green leaves with a lighter underside. While both are edible and tasty, you can probably tell from my description that I prefer the upright rosemary for cooking. If you purchase fresh rosemary at the store or farmer’s market, this is the kind you will find.
In cooking I usually chose to pair the strong taste and fragrance of rosemary with saltier foods, although nothing beats a honey mustard salad dressing with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a handful of fresh rosemary leaves. I love fresh rosemary on pork, chicken, steak, lamb and most other meats, on potatoes and other root vegetables and in soups. I also enjoy rosemary as an accent in pesto and combined with orange peel and warming spices in teas, see Rosemary Spice tea below. I also like to add rosemary leaves to my bread and I always enjoy it paired with thyme, sage and winter savory.
Rosemary’s Latin name, Ros Marinus means dew of the sea. I always thought this seemed appropriate, especially in the bay area where rosemary bushes are common and plentiful, those little green leaves as tasty and magical as the dew drops of the sea.
Rosemary Spice – Herbal Tea
2 fresh rosemary branches, or 2 Tbs. dried leaves
½ cinnamon stick, or 1 tsp. cinnamon chips
1 Tbs. orange peel, or the peel of one small organic orange or tangerine
These measurements are approximate; follow your nose and your tongue. This recipe makes about 1 quart of tea, about the size of a large teapot.
To make an herbal tea/infusion place the herbs in a cup, teapot or glass jar and pour boiling water over to fill the jar or pot. Place on a tight fitting lid and let stand for anywhere from 15 minutes to up to 8 hours. The longer you let the herbs sit the better, especially with these herbs the flavors will release and become richer over time. You can strain your tea before you drink it or let the teapot catch the big pieces and enjoy the little tid bits that make it into your mug. If you do a long steeping infusion you may want to heat your tea slightly on the stove, or add a little fresh boiling water to your tea to heat it up before drinking.

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