Herbs: Rosemary Fact Sheet

Family: Labiatae

Species: Rosmarinus officinalis, "Dew of the sea"



Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean and eventually spread to the United States and Europe. More than a mere herb, rosemary is actually a two-to-five-foot tall evergreen shrub. Besides its culinary uses, it has served as decoration and as an ingredient in medicines and fragrances. Dating back to 500 B.C., rosemary has often been a fragrant symbol of love, friendship and remembrance. Rosemary is also associated with Christmas, and is thought to be one of the herbs found in the manger with Baby Jesus. Certainly, rosemary's vivid pine scent conjures up images of the winter holidays.


Health Properties:

For centuries rosemary was used to treat nervous system ailments. Today it's used in aromatherapy to enhance the senses and boost memory. Though these aroma-therapeutic uses are far from proven, there are promising, ongoing clinical studies supporting rosemary's health-protective benefits. Rosemary contains antioxidants — carnosol, one of its strongest, may play a preventive role in cancer and cholesterol oxidation.


Where to Find It:

  • In Nature: Sunny environments with light, well-drained soil. Rosemary is typically found near breezy oceans, such as in California. It can be cultivated outdoors in mild regions or indoors in harsher climates.
  • At the Market: Rosemary can be found in fresh whole sprigs, fresh or dried in whole-leaf form and in powdered form, although rare.
  • In Foods: Rosemary is used in seasoning meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, egg dishes, soups, vegetables and fruit salads.


When in Season:

Dried and fresh rosemary are available year-round. The fresh herb is at its most fragrant and flavorful when in flower during peak season, generally May through July.


How to Store Rosemary:

  • Fresh: Similar to treating flowers, stand trimmed stem ends of fresh rosemary sprigs in a glass or vase with water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate. Change the water every two days.
  • Dried: Tightly cover dried rosemary. Store in a dark, cool, dry place up to a year. To freeze: Wash and dry fresh sprigs completely; seal in plastic freezer bags.


How to Spot It:

Rosemary has one-to-two inch, needle-shaped, glossy green leaves with silvery white undersides.


Aroma & Flavor:

Aroma & Flavor:

The leaves have a spicy pine aroma with a strong lemon-pine flavor.


Fresh vs. Dried:

Fresh is typically best to use when cooking with rosemary. When preparing soups or other long-cooking dishes, dried rosemary works fine. As with most herbs, two teaspoons of fresh rosemary will provide the equivalent flavor of one teaspoon of dried rosemary.


Cooking Tips:

  • For the best lemon-pine flavor of rosemary, crush or mince a small amount of the fresh leaves in your hands prior to use in cooking.
  • Dip rosemary branches in olive oil and use as a meat baster.
  • Use rosemary stalks in place of stainless steel or wooden kebab skewers.
  • Just for grilling: Strip leaves from fresh rosemary stalks for use in cooking; place stalks on coals to scent food as it grills.


Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes

Makes 4 servings

1-1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, unpeeled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius).

2. In a large, sealable bag or covered container, place potatoes, oil, garlic, salt and pepper; shake to coat.

3. Place coated potatoes on large baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until largest potato is fork-tender.

4. If desired, garnish with fresh, chopped chives or green onions. Serve as a tasty side dish for lean meat, fish or poultry. Per serving: 199 calories, 7 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 4 gm protein, 43 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 304 mg sodium

Jackie Newgent is a registered dietician in New York City.