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Published December 07, 2012, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Try rosemary to boost flavor, memory

“Mom, something smells heavenly!” my 14-year-old daughter exclaimed. “Wow, what’s for dinner, Mom? When is it time to eat?” my 17-year-old son asked a little while later. “Be patient. You’ll see,” I said.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, something smells heavenly!” my 14-year-old daughter exclaimed.

“Wow, what’s for dinner, Mom? When is it time to eat?” my 17-year-old son asked a little while later.

“Be patient. You’ll see,” I said.

They were following their noses to the kitchen. I was enjoying the attention.

I had spent a couple of extra minutes adding some “secret ingredients” to a pork roast. My extra-special ingredient was rosemary.

During dinner, they raved about the flavor and asked me to add rosemary to other foods. I thought my family preferred “plain food,” but now we have opened the cupboard doors to a new range of culinary experiences.

Rosemary has been used widely in Mediterranean cuisine, but it can be added to a variety of foods, including various meats, fish, eggs, breads, soups and vegetables such as potatoes. Herbs like rosemary add flavor without adding calories or sodium.

Depending on your location and the season, rosemary may be available fresh but probably can be found as a dried ingredient in the spice section of most grocery stores. In general, use about one-half as much dried rosemary as fresh.

Rosemary has been used in weddings, funerals and other ceremonies throughout the ages. Rosemary’s lemony, pinelike aroma has been used to add fragrance to lotions. Although little research is available to prove its effectiveness, rosemary has a long history of use in complementary medicine.

For example, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, rosemary extracts have been used in complementary medicine to ease muscle and joint aches and treat alopecia (patchy baldness). Rosemary leaves have been used to treat indigestion.

More recently, some research has been conducted to explore the role of the rosemary scent in memory. The participants in the study didn’t eat the rosemary; they simply smelled the aroma of rosemary oil in various concentrations as they worked.

One group of researchers identified a chemical compound in rosemary that may enter the blood stream through the lining of the nasal passages or lungs. They noted improvements in overall mental performance. The researchers proposed that a rosemary compound may prevent the breakdown of a chemical in our nervous system needed for brain function.

However, intriguing as these results are, a study or two doesn’t prove that rosemary aroma helps our memory.

Scientists note some precautions with the medicinal use of rosemary. Although rosemary supplements are available, their safety and effectiveness have not been well-studied, and they may have interactions with prescription medications. Some people may have allergic reactions to rosemary, and high doses of rosemary supplements are linked to miscarriage. Be sure to visit with a medical professional before taking supplements.

Try some rosemary in your cooking, though. You can create some memorable meals with a delicious aroma by adding some rosemary and other herbs to your recipes.

Here is a close approximation of the recipe that brought my teenagers into the kitchen. A delicious pork roast with baked sweet potatoes and steamed peas makes a colorful, nutritious and fragrant meal on a cold winter evening. For more recipes and nutrition tips, see the Prairie Fare blog at prairiefare.areavoices.com.


Rosemary and Garlic Pork Roast

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 to 3 teaspoons dried rosemary

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse salt (optional)

Olive oil (if needed)

2.5-pound pork loin (or to suit family size)

Mix garlic, rosemary, pepper and salt together in a bowl to create a “rub.” Trim excess fat from the roast. Brush the roast lightly with olive oil (to help the rub stick to the roast). Rub herb-spice mixture over the pork roast. Place in a covered roasting pan, fat side down. Roast for about 30 minutes. Turn roast fat side up and continue roasting to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F, as measured by a food thermometer. Sprinkle lightly with additional rosemary. If desired, make pan gravy by heating the juices from the roast in a pan on the stove and adding a thickener, such as a flour and cold water mixture.

Makes about eight to 10 servings, depending on the shrinkage during cooking. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3-ounce portion of roasted pork tenderloin has 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, no carbohydrates, 22 grams of protein and 48 milligrams of sodium (if none is added before cooking).


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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