Prairie Fare: Give fresh rosemary a try on your menu

Julie Garden-Robinson
Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension

“What smells so good?” one of my kids asked.

“It’s a surprise,” I said.

Everyone gathered in the kitchen at the sound of a mysterious meal with a delicious aroma. My kids were quite a bit younger at the time. They’ve lost some of their youthful enthusiasm.

I was enjoying the attention. I didn’t think that chopping some fresh rosemary and sprinkling it over a pork loin would garner this much interest.

“This is a gourmet meal, Mom,” my older daughter said when we ate.

“This is the best pork ever!” my younger daughter exclaimed.

Rosemary is a savory kitchen herb with evergreen, needlelike leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region and can be used to add flavor in a variety of foods, such as lamb, chicken, roasts, fish, stew and roasted vegetables, such as potatoes or cauliflower.

You can mix it into softened butter to make a savory spread. Some people enjoy infusing a simple syrup, made from sugar and water, with rosemary and using the sweetened, flavorful liquid to make lemonade or a variety of cocktails.

Rosemary can be purchased from grocery stores in fresh or dried forms, but it also can be grown at home. Grow rosemary by potting a small bedding plant from a garden center because growing it from the seed can be difficult.

Use a high-quality commercial potting mixture and a pot that is 6 to 8 inches deep. Plant the rosemary to the same depth as it was in the original container. Make sure the pot is at least 12 inches in diameter so the roots have space to expand, and be sure the pot has a drainage hole so the soil is well-drained.

Proper watering helps ensure optimal growth for rosemary. If the top 1 to 2 inches of soil are dry, water the plant and let it drain freely. Rosemary grows best in full sun and shows damage when temperatures dip below 20 F.

In other words, don’t expect your rosemary plant to survive a North Dakota winter. Bring it inside and treat it like a houseplant.

Growing rosemary indoors during the winter months can be challenging. Make sure the plant doesn’t become chilled from the cold air.

In the warmer months, place it in a sunny location outdoors. When grown outside in warmer months, plant rosemary in a pot or in the ground.

If stored properly, fresh rosemary will keep in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days. Loosely wrap the rosemary sprigs in a slightly damp paper towel and then again in a plastic storage bag. If you have more rosemary than you can use in two weeks, follow the freezing or drying instructions.

Freeze or dry rosemary to preserve it. Rosemary leaves can be frozen suspended in water or olive oil in ice cube trays. You also can place rosemary sprigs on a baking sheet in the freezer until they are frozen solidly, then transfer the sprigs to a freezer bag for future use.

Rosemary can be dried by washing the sprigs under cold running water and patting them dry with a paper towel. Then bundle the sprigs and tie them together at their bases. Hang them in a well-ventilated area to air-dry. To protect from dust and other irritants, place a brown paper bag around the hanging herb.

The leaves from three sprigs of fresh rosemary generally equal 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary. Dried rosemary is a good substitute for fresh rosemary in the winter months, when growing fresh rosemary and/or finding it at your local grocery store is more difficult. Because the dried version has a more concentrated flavor, you will need less of it than the fresh.

This flavorful recipe excites all your senses with color, crunchiness and aroma. Add a little flavor boost to your recipes.

Rosemary Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, grilled, cooled and diced into small cubes

1 1/4 c. gala or Fuji apple, chopped

1/3 c. chopped pecans

1/3 c. dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Lettuce or whole-grain bread for serving

Homemade Dressing

1 5.3-ounce container fat-free plain Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. onion powder

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine chicken, apples, pecans and cranberries in a large mixing bowl. In a separate, small mixing bowl, stir together dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss to coat evenly. Serve on lettuce leaves or whole-grain bread.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 310 calories, 15 grams (g) fat, 28 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 125 milligrams sodium.