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Nutritious & Delicious Rosemary

Rosemary, native to the Mediterranean region, has been used as a medicinal herb since 500 B.C. to strengthen memory, improve circulation, aid in digestion, and heal wounds. In the 17th century, rosemary became popular as a digestive aid in apothecaries throughout Europe. During World War II, French medics burned an herbal mixture of rosemary and juniper berries in their field hospitals. This practice, dating back to the Middle Ages, was believed to prevent infection. Today, many herbalists prescribe rosemary to improve brain function and digestion.

Recent studies have found that rosemary extract may slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, a key brain chemical involved in memory and thinking. This brain chemical also plays a role in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's. Other research has focused on carnosic acid, an antioxidant found in rosemary that may work as an anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic agent. In addition, rosemary is a source of nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin A, and folate.

Rosemary is used often in Italian and Greek cooking. The small, green needle-shaped leaves have a piney, slightly lemony flavor that goes well with chicken, beef, and beans, as well as many vegetables and grains. Fresh rosemary is generally better to use when cooking, as the flavor is brighter and the leaves are not as sharp and prickly as the dried version. It is best to use only a small amount of the chopped herb in dishes to achieve a subtle flavor. Too much rosemary will overpower the dish with its piney scent and taste. Try rubbing a small amount of chopped rosemary on beef, lamb or poultry before cooking or sprinkle some rosemary on vegetables before roasting.

Incorporate a tablespoon or two of rosemary into your cooking to reap many health and flavor benefits!

This article was submitted by Jackie Topol, RD, Clinical Dietitian at NYP/Weill Cornell.


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