This post was last updated on August 7th, 2014 at 07:53 am
I tell my friends that I am planting a hillside with rosemary, or sage, or lavender (or insert my favorite herb of the moment) so that I can simply lay down in the field of herbs and breath. They always think I’m joking and yet we already have copious amounts of rosemary, most of it right near our hammock, and I am measuring out and marking a hillside for Cleveland sage. I picture myself in the middle of my favorite herb in a chaise lounge or on a picnic blanket reading a book or paper and pondering the world deeply. If that wouldn’t build your brain, it’s hard to imagine what would. The rest, relaxation, and fresh air alone is an inspiration but it turns out that if we are breathing in rosemary aroma, we are likely to both improve our mood and become more alert. I mentioned this point in a post about rosemary tea ( here) but thought it deserved another mention.
A 2003 study (abstract here) found that while both rosemary and lavender have a positive impact on mood, lavender basically impairs our work (that’s how relaxing it is) and rosemary improves our mental alertness.
I picture myself in a field of rosemary, or perhaps in a hammock near a large planting.
(I’ll be back in a bit….)
Anyone who can build their brain by lounging in a rosemary field really should do that.
Go do it right now.
For those without access, there surely are some more stream-lined approaches to brain-building. Here are my top picks:
- Aroma therapy with essential oils. This is the easiest and most effective solution for most people. As all things “easy,” it is also the most expensive on the list but really has a fairly low cost in the grand scheme of things. Buy an aroma therapy diffuser and rosemary essential oils. Use the diffuser in your work area to help improve your mood and keep your brain focused at the same time.
- Make a rosemary sniffer. This idea sounds a bit strange but my son and I use this concept around the house quite often. We keep our herb of choice, dried and partially crushed, in a small jar with a lid. Open the jar and take a whiff. It’s amazing the amount of aroma that comes out of that jar. You can use fresh herbs as well and they will probably partially dry in the jar but they will mold as well. If you actually have to buy them, I wouldn’t tend to go this route because of the spoilage potential, but if you have copious amounts of rosemary near your hammock, it doesn’t matter at all. (The only question in that case is why you’re not out in your hammock. I ask this question of myself, of course, as I sit at a computer typing.)
- Drink the aroma (or eat it). In our “Flavors of the Forest” project (here), we love finding aromatic, edible plants and experiencing how the aroma is captured as a flavor. Indian cuisine has mastered this with its use of rose and jasmine waters. Let’s take a page from that book and make use of “rosemary water.” A mild form of “rosemary water” is also known as “tea” and it’s quite good. A more concentrated form makes a great syrup that can be used in many of your next creations, including even simply in a seltzer as a rosemary soda, as an addition to lemonade, or in beverages like this rosemary peach spritzer (here). It is the perfect flavor to experiment with in custards and flan.
I asked my son to offer a suggestion on “smelling rosemary” when I gave him some in a jar to sniff. He offers a demonstration below with what he calls “the boy.” (Yes, that’s a sprig of rosemary in the “hand” of “the boy.”)
Rosemary Syrup Instructions
Rosemary syrup hardly deserves a recipe, but I’ll mention my simple process. I harvest the rosemary fresh and chop the tiny leaves off the woody stem. For a quart of water I might harvest about 12 inches of stem, chop off the leaves, and give the loose leaves an extra chop. Bring a quart of water to a boil and pour the boiling water over the rosemary. Cover and steep for an hour or overnight for a strong infusion. Strain out the rosemary and preserve the liquid.
For a sweet syrup, use two cups of sweetener. Honey works well but darker, molasses-based sugars will cover much of the rosemary flavor. I would tend to go in the white sugar direction if you forgo the honey. You can add your sweetener to your hot infusion so that it integrates with the water but if you have some premium honey, I would tend to add it when your infusion is warm, not hot. In any case, strain the rosemary leaves out and use your syrup in your creations. Take note of the proportions and adjust your next batch of syrup to better fit your taste. You might want more rosemary. You might want more sweetness.
Your bonus rosemary pro-tip
As you experiment with rosemary as a flavor, you might be tempted to cut an entire woody sprig off your plant and toss it into your hot water. (*raises hand*) The stem portion of the rosemary can impart a bitter flavor to your drink. If you want a rosemary syrup with more refined flavors, chop off the leaves and discard the stem. If you want to reuse your rosemary from the infusion (e.g. make another tea), you are better off being stem-free.
Where to buy rosemary if it’s not growing near your hammock
We are definitely spoiled here in California. A Californian need only walk around their neighborhood to find rosemary. Make friends with the rosemary grower and your problem is solved. Others may actually need to buy it. *shudder* This is our favorite herb shop (here). We have been customers for well over five years and have come to partner with them on this website. You can shop there and support this site at the same time. It’s actually fairly inexpensive. You can also go to your local nursery and buy a rosemary plant. 😉
In any case, go forth.