From the Bankes' herbal
I have always had a very passionate love affair with the Rosemarinus Officianalis, the oft romanticized herb of love and remembrance! I love to grow it and I usually am enjoying several different varieties at a time in my garden. Each type is just a little bit different, some have pink or white flowers and some have blue, some are the shrub type and some are trailing. Some have long stems and some are shorter. All of them have a bit of the wonderful piney astringency that is the hallmark of the fragrant Rosemary plant. Many of them do wonderfully in containers and I have always found them very easy to grow in my northern and western gardens. Honeybees adore them and if you’ve never had Rosemary honey please try to find some right away. You’ll be very glad that you did! Stirred into a bit of white wine, it's literally a sip of ambrosia!
In Southern California where I’m fortunate enough to spend quite alot of my time the Rosemary is lush and beautiful all year round. You find it growing everywhere, cultivated in lovely gardens but just as often growing wild on a beautiful hillside. I once went into an open house here in Del Mar because of the incredible fragrance that was wafting out at me from me from the street. Although the house wasn’t appealing to me at all, the patio was absolutely gorgeous. I spent a good half hour sitting outside next to the largest, healthiest hedge of Rosemary that I’ve ever seen, that was made even more delightful because it was covered with little blue flowers and industriously buzzing honeybees!
For years people have asked me what I use on my long hair to keep it healthy even through constant rounds of salon highlights . My secret is truly simple, freshly harvested Rosemary needles that I’ve infused in a bottle of warm olive oil. I add a few drops of essential oils of Rosemary and lavender and several times a week I use a natural bristle brush to distribute a dime sized amount of the fragrant oil through my hair starting at the scalp and finishing at the ends. Its smells wonderful and is surprisingly not greasy. When I wash it out, my hair is left with the delicious fragrance of the oils and feels soft and very supple. That same homemade oil mixed with a few drops of birch oil and diluted to a much weaker strength makes a wonderful massage oil and when rubbed gently onto the stomach is a very effective antispasmodic, beautifully fragrant and much safer than any over the counter stomach remedy that you can buy!
This same Rosemary oil without the essential oil of Birch but with the addition of a drop or two (No more!) of essential oil of White Thyme is what I put into my bath when I’m feeling just a bit under the weather. A steaming mug of lemon water with a bit of cayenne pepper added and sweetened with local raw honey is the final part of the treatment. Just lie back in the delicious warm water and sip. When you get out, snuggle into your softest pajamas and crawl into bed regardless of the time. When you wake up I promise that you’ll feel better, refreshed from the deep sleep that an herbal bath and a bit of nurturing can bring!
In my home I use fresh Rosemary in my kitchen at least 3 or four times a week , loving the fragrance that it imparts to most everything that I prepare! Handfuls of fresh rosemary, meyer lemon and onion stuffed into a chicken before roasting make the pan juices absolutely delectable. A bit of dried Rosemary mixed with a bit of olive oil, chopped shallot and sea salt turns the simple roasted potato into a dish that is almost otherwordly . Several long branches of Rosemary can be tied together with kitchen string and turned into a “scentuous” basting brush that you can use when barbecuing. Simply dip the leafy ends into any marinade or olive oil blend that you are using and baste the meat that you are grilling. The heat will release the oils in the Rosemary and leave the meat fragrant and sweet! Gamier meats like lamb , pork or rabbit can be made less pungent by marinating them in a mixture of fresh rosemary, olive oil and any sort of fruit infused vinegar for several hours. Blend a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary and lightly salted butter for a wonderful steak butter to top a lovely grilled bistecca! Rosemary branches that have been soaked in water will create a delicious smoke when tossed atop applewood chips and used as an aromatic to flavor fresh fish or any other meat that you’re cooking on the grill.
Quite often dried Rosemary is one of the herbs used in combination to create the remarkable Herbes de Provence, a mixture that usually will include thyme, fennel, lavender flowers, oregano, basil , savory and chervil. Herbes de Provence is wonderful when baked into a loaf of whole grain bread or mashed with just a touch of truffled salt into a fresh fromage blanc and stuffed into a chicken breast that you’ve baked with a bit of fresh spinach and tomato. Delicious!
Here’s the easiest recipe I know for a garlic spread that is just wonderful! All you need is about 30 cloves of peeled garlic and a Cuisinart . Put the cloves into the bowl and add a bit (just a bit!) of sea salt, the fresh herbs of your choice, or a good Herbes de Provence mixture. Turn it on and on the pulse settings blend the mixture until smooth adding a thin stream of flax seed oil. The mixture should be creamy and smooth when you are done and you can use this for many things. It makes a delicious dip for raw , steamed or grilled veggies and its an excellent and healthy substitute for a traditional pesto sauce if you add a bit of vegan parmesan and some walnuts! It’s a perfect spread for garlic bread or any type of Crostini! One of my favorite uses for it is rubbed underneath the skin of a chicken or all over a standing rib before roasting. Trust me, there is no better aroma for perking up your spirits on a really cold day! Just add a wilted spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing and a butternut squash roasted with cinamon, cream and maple syrup and a horn of rich ale and you're all set!