Aromatic rosemary for your decor, recipes, gifts

December 19, 2007|By Allison Askins | Allison Askins,McClatchy-Tribune

Sweet rosemary, with its evergreen needles and pungent piney aroma, is the herb of remembrance - perfect for holiday decorating, cooking and giving away.

"It's incredible with potatoes, with pork, with chicken," said Yvonne Russell, a Spring Valley, S.C., gardener known for her affection for the herb.

Rosemary often is found in garden shops and specialty groceries this time of year, shaped into whimsical trees, bundled in burlap or colorful foil.

For Russell, the plant's spicy aroma evokes memories of her mother's and grandmother's kitchens. She recalls her grandmother's instructions to use the kitchen scissors to snip the plant's tender tops.

"The whole house smells heavenly" as the herb simmers, Russell said.

She recommends placing an ample bunch inside a turkey when roasting a holiday bird or dropping a stem in a tomato sauce to add a flavorful punch.

If you leave the herb on the stem, rather than stripping its needles and using them individually, it is much easier to remove from the sauce before serving. Otherwise, you'll find guests sputtering over needles toughened by cooking instead of savoring the sauce.

Robin Thomas, another Spring Valley gardener who adores rosemary, confesses that cooking with the herb is not her preference.

"Personally, I don't like the way it tastes, but I love the way it smells," she said.

Thomas shares the plant's beauty and aroma by giving the plant away - a perfect idea for the holidays as rosemary has an ancient history of symbolizing remembrance and friendship.

"It's a plant for everyone, and that's what I love about it," she said. "It can be a little country cottage plant or formal."

Thomas is known for giving birthday bouquets of rosemary, wrapped in burlap and tied with garden twine.

Russell loves to give it away, too. She places stems in clear glass tumblers tied with bright red ribbon. Placed in clear glass, the stems eventually will sprout roots, providing the recipient something that can last a lifetime if cared for properly.

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