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Definition: rosemary from The Columbia Encyclopedia

[ultimately from Lat.,=dew of the sea], widely cultivated evergreen and shrubby perennial (Rosmarinus officinalis) of the family Labiatae (mint family), fairly hardy and native to the Mediterranean region. It has small light-blue flowers. The aromatic leaves, whitish beneath, are used for seasoning, and the oil is used in perfume and medicine. From ancient times rosemary has been regarded as a token of constancy and remembrance. In Hamlet (iv:5) Ophelia says, “There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.” There is a prostrate variety. Rosemary is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales, family Labiatae.


Summary Article: ROSEMARY
from Cambridge World History of Food

An aromatic herb, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a Mediterranean native whose Latin name means “dew of the sea,” presumably because it was frequently found growing close to the coast. The plant was known to the Romans, who used it mostly for medicinal purposes. Early in the Middle Ages, however, although its medical applications continued, rosemary joined a host of other herbs employed for culinary reasons, especially in the kitchens of the European royal and noble courts. Today, rosemary is more utilized in Italian cooking than in any of the other Mediterranean cuisines; in northern Europe, it is sometimes used in sausage making. The needle-like leaves of the rosemary plant are used both fresh and dried, but they have to be crushed, crumbled, or chopped to release their bold flavor and (especially in the case of fresh rosemary) to avoid spearing the consumer. Rosemary is wonderful with poultry, beef, lamb, and fish, and goes well in sauces. It is also used in salads, salad dressings, soups, and stews, and to make tisanes.

See also: “Spices and Flavorings,” Part II, Section F, Chapter 1.

© Cambridge University Press 2000

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