Inside the Spice Cabinet: Rosemary

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Take one look at the imposing needle-like leaves on a rosemary plant, and you might wonder how anyone ever thought to put this herb in their mouths. But crush a few of those needles between your fingers, breathe in their pungent and mouth-watering aroma, and you’ll understand.

What Is Rosemary?

Taste: Pungent, earthy
Most Popular Use: Meat, roasted vegetables, soup, stew

Rosemary is a Mediterranean shrub that has made its way into many world cuisines. It’s an unusually tall and narrow plant with long woody stems and tough slender leaves. Unlike most other woody herbs, the flavor and aroma of rosemary is preserved very well when the herb is dried.

It has a piney aroma and a distinctive sharp flavor, and can be used fresh or dried. Rosemary is an incredibly powerful herb and can easily overwhelm a dish if you use too much. It’s best to start with the minimum called for in a recipe and work your way up to taste. Also, remember that the rosemary flavor will gain strength the longer a dish cooks, particularly those with a lot of liquid.

How To Use Rosemary

When using fresh, the leaves are easily stripped off the stem by running your fingers along the stem from top to bottom in the opposite direction that the leaves grow. The leaves remain quite tough even when cooked, so we usually mince them as finely as possible before adding them to a dish.

Rosemary has a place in everything from meat and chicken, to vegetables, soups, baked goods, and even cocktails. It can go into a marinade or braise, and get worked into a compound butter to melt over the finished dish.

Recipe for Cooking with Rosemary