All About Spices: Basil and Rosemary
Herbs and spices have always been useful in the kitchen, and McCormick, the leading name in the kitchen-friendly ingredients, share some information on these indispensable culinary adjuncts.
Basil, also called ‘sweet basil,’ is the dried leaves of the herb Ocimum basillicum, a member of the mint family. Basil is a small, bushy plant that grows to about 2 feet tall. Its botanical name is derived from the Greek, ‘to be fragrant.’
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Basil has a strong history of reverence and loathing. Its name is Greek for ‘King’ and it is revered as a sacred herb in the Hindu religion. However, is Europe during the Middle Ages, it was believed that scorpions would breed under pots of basil and just to smell basil would form a scorpion in the brain. Basil is known as the tomato herb because of its affinity with tomato-based dishes. There are over 150 varieties of basil.
Basil is cultivated worldwide. McCormick sources its basil from Spain.
- Bake whole baby courgettes in olive oil, chopped tomato and basil.
- Add a teaspoon or two of basil to tomato sauce and soups such as gazpacho.
- Sprinkle basil onto pizzas and pasta, together with oregano, for an authentic Italian flavor.
- Sprinkle a mixture of basil, salt, cumin and coriander onto lamb chops before grilling.
- Mix in 1 teaspoon of basil with minced meat for hamburger patties or meatloaf.
- Use in a bruschetta mix with extra virgin olive oil and fresh, diced tomato.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon into chicken casseroles, or use in a stuffing for breast fillets.
Rosemary is the dried leaves of the evergreen Rosmarinus officinalis. The slender, slightly curved leaves resemble miniature curved pine needles. Normally hand harvested, the rosemary plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and is very hardy as it grows under harsh mountainous conditions.
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The Latin name ‘Ros Maris’ means “Dew of the Sea,’ as the plant grows well by the seaside. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary, fleeing from Herod’s soldiers, hung her cloak on a rosemary bush one night. In the morning, the white flowers had turned blue under her cloak. From them on, the herb became known as “Rose of Mary’. In ancient Greece it was believed that rosemary fortified the brain and refreshed the memory. Students wore it in their hair during examinations to improve their memory. Associated with remembrance, rosemary was used at weddings and funerals. Rosemary is believed to grow well in the garden of a happy household. For a refreshing bath add a handful of rosemary, tied in muslin, to the water. An infusion of rosemary is said to be calming on the nerves. Rosemary is an antiseptic, and works well as an antiseptic, and works well as a breath freshener.
France, Spain and Portugal are the major produces of rosemary. McCormick sources its rosemary from exotic Morocco.
- Rosemary adds flavor to fruit salads and jellies.
- Sprinkle rosemary over barbecue coals for an aromatic, smoky flavor.
- Rosemary makes a fresh and flavorsome marinade for meats and oily fish together with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.
- For duck and other game, serve a rich red wine and orange gravy flavored with rosemary.
- Rosemary is traditionally used with lamb but also goes well with pork. Its fresh, camphor-like aroma is a good counter-balance to rich or fatty foods.
- Sprinkle over potatoes prior to a baking.
- Add to tomato-based soups like minestrone or bacon and tomato.
- Use as a stuffing for lamb and beef in roasting.