Monday, June 25, 2012

Rosemary Tea, Beating the Summer Blues

I wrote off Rosemary long ago. As a culinary herb I always thought of it as overpowering and old fashioned. I associated it with mediocre restaurant potatoes in all their forms: gluey, under-salted and mashed; dry, under-salted and roasted; boiled, under-salted and swimming in a floury, rosemary-flecked "au jus". Even in its fresh form in neat, rail straight, supermarket bundles it never appealed.

Then I moved from Maine to northern California and so began my romance with rosemary. The bush grows everywhere here, in gnarled unkempt hedges, weaving under and around whatever else dares to plant roots near by, and in thick orderly rows in front yards and back yards. I have fallen in love with the plant and its intoxicating scent, its purple blooms in the late winter, and its hardiness, its persistence and presence in all of the "seasons" we experience here.

I was delighted, then, to discover while reading the amazing book Whole Foods Companion, that rosemary is one of the most powerful medicinal herbs you can find. Most notably, it is said to alleviate depression, generally improve mood, and eliminate negativity of all kinds. I mean, who can't use a little negativity elimination from time to time? I love summer. But as the heat cranks up in wine country, so do the crowds of tourists, so do the social demands, and so do the work hours. So while it may seem counterintuitive to get seasonal blues when the sun is out and the tan is on, I have been finding myself in need of a little extra pick me up, a little positivity, and something to cool and to bolster.
Rosemary plants for sale outside of the Green String Farmstand

Rosemary tea is easy to make. Put a few sprigs in a covered glass jar and leave it out in the sun all day, or throw the herb into a pot of just boiled water, let it steep, and drink up. Lately, as the temperature creeps up above 100 degrees here, I have been brewing it strong, storing it in large bottles in the fridge, and drinking it over ice with some fresh mint muddled in the bottom.

Other Benefits of Rosemary
-Stimulates memory, helps overcome mental fatigue & opens the conscious mind
-Improves liver & gall function
-Improves circulation
-Strengthens & tones the stomach muscles
-Can be used topically to help with skin conditions or in a bath to speed recovery of slow healing wounds
-The tea can be used as a hair wash to stimulate growth, detangle, and treat dandruff

Iced Rosemary Tea (stove brew) 
makes 4 servings (you can drink this all day long for ongoing benefits) 
3 or 4 good size sprigs of fresh rosemary, rinsed
4 cups of water
fresh mint (optional)
honey or light agave to sweeten (optional)

Bring 4 cups of water to boil. Turn water off, add rosemary sprigs, cover and let steep at least 10 minutes. The longer you steep, the greater the medicinal value as more essential oil transfers from the leaves into the tea. * Drink hot or chill in a glass or metal bottle in the fridge. Bruise, tear or muddle the mint leaves and drop in the bottom of glass. Add ice and sweetener if desired, pour chilled tea into glass and drink up!

*note: the stronger the tea gets, the pinker it becomes. It will take on a more medicinal taste as it gets stronger but it can always be diluted with cold or hot water, lemon juice, soda water, or another herbal tea.

Source for claims on medicinal uses and benefits of rosemary:
Onstad, Dianne. Whole Foods Companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. Originally printed in 1992.

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