Rosemary In and Out of the Kitchen

Chef Anne shows us food and non-food uses for this easy-to-grow herb.

Three years ago, I planted a tiny, 4-inch rosemary seedling in my garden. Today I have a very large rosemary bush! I’ve never fertilized it. I don’t water it except on very hot summer days and then, only about once a week. It seems no amount of neglect is too much for this hearty herb.

If you have the proverbial black thumb, then I suggest you try growing a rosemary plant. It thrives in poor soil, with partial sun and obviously with lots of neglect.

Although I don’t tend to this great herb much, I do find myself breaking off branches several times a week. I use it not only in my cooking, but in many other ways as well. Run out to your local nursery and pick up a plant today.

Some uses for rosemary in food:

  •  Strip fresh leaves from the stem and mince them with a chef's knife. Use in meat rubs and marinades.
  • Whole sprigs can be placed on grilling meats and fish, or even tossed onto coals to add flavor.
  • Take leaves from the stem and lay them out on a clean towel for a day or two until they dry. Then crush them in a zip lock bag using a rolling pin or meat mallet. Or put them in a spice grinder to grind. You really don’t want to use whole dried rosemary leaves in cooking as they don’t soften and can be quite irritating to swallow.
  • Dried rosemary is much stronger than fresh. Substitute one teaspoon dried for one tablespoon fresh.
  • One of my favorite uses is to use the woody stems as kabob skewers. Keep the leaves on or take them off and use them to season the meats and vegetables. Place your cubed meat and pieces of vegetable on the stems just as you would on any skewer; only these help season your food while it cooks.
  • Another, similar way to use them are as substitutes for toothpicks in recipes calling for rolled, stuffed meats. Use the rosemary stems in place of the toothpicks for a nice punch of flavor.

Some non-food uses for rosemary:

  • Mosquitoes hate the smell of rosemary so it’s a natural repellant.
  • Boil ½ cup of rosemary leaves in 2 ½ cups water. Cool and use as a moisturizing hair rinse. It’s said that it also helps with hair re-growth and dandruff elimination.
  • Just like the mosquitoes, cats hate the smell of rosemary. Rosemary planted around your yard will keep feral cats away. You can also use it to train your house cat. If it seems your cat has claimed your bed or sofa, put a few stems of rosemary on it and it’ll quickly be discouraged.
  • Tie up a bunch and throw it on a campfire or in your fireplace to scent the air.
  • Rosemary is being studied as a possible link to help increase memory.

Here’s an easy recipe using rosemary that you will always want to have on hand in your refrigerator. Put this on everything from meats and vegetables to breads and crackers.

Rosemary Butter

  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, removed from the stem and finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest  (can use orange zest)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or orange juice)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 stick butter, softened (use real butter, no substitutions)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  2. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on your work surface and spread the mixture out in a horizontal shape.
  3. Take the paper up and roll back and forth to create a log about 1 to 2 inches thick.
  4.  To store, twist the ends of the paper tightly and store in the refrigerator, or wrap airtight and freeze.

This will keep in the refrigerator for a week, but I seriously doubt you’ll have it
that long as you’ll be using it every chance you get!

In Dunedin, your best bets for finding fresh herbs are:

  • The Dunedin every Saturday in Pioneer Park.
  • The Farmers Market at North Pinellas Historical Museum every Sunday (at the corner of Curlew and Belcher roads).


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