Candied Rosemary, a Sweet Garden Treat
Although they may not seem like candy to us, sweetened herbs such as rosemary have served as culinary treats since antiquity.
According to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat's The History of Food, early inhabitants of the Middle East, China, India, and Egypt routinely coated nuts, fruits, and edible flowers and stems with honey for dessert. The Greeks and Romans did, too.
Later, sugar was used. These delicacies, known as sweetmeats in Britain, were called candy in the United States from the Arabic word qandi, meaning "made of sugar."
If you're a fan of martinis, you'll love them even more garnished with a sprig of rosemary covered in sugar.
Like to bake? Sugared rosemary makes a gorgeous edible cake garnish, too. Or try this moist and fragrant pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart. It features both rosemary and rosemary honey. Yum!
Sweet & Refreshing
Candied rosemary has a sweet, refreshing taste. And it's aromatic, particularly when made with thyme or rose petal-scented water.
At Historic St. Mary's City in Southern Maryland, historical reenactors demonstrate lots of early American recipes, including candied rosemary.
An Historical ReenactmentClick thumbnail to view full-size
Candied Rosemary Recipe
Quick & Easy
You don't need a fancy recipe to candy rosemary at home. You don't need a special occasion either. (Or a costume.) In fact, if you're an herb gardener, you can make sugared rosemary in about five minutes and enjoy it with a strong cup of tea in about 30.
Just follow the recipe below. It's been around since the 1600s.
- 2 C. boiling water
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, washed
- 1/2 C. sugar
- 3 springs fresh thyme, washed
- Bring the water to a boil and pour over thyme.
- Steep three to five minutes. Meanwhile, place the sugar in a shallow bowl.
- Dip sprigs of rosemary into the hot water one at a time.
- Using a spoon, sprinkle each sprig generously with sugar. Set aside to dry.
- For a sweetly fragrant alternative, replace the thyme with rose petals.
If you don't have rosemary and thyme at home, you can always purchase sprigs in the produce department of your local grocery store.
But why not grow them yourself?
Herbs are among the easiest of plants to cultivate--hardy, fragrant, useful, and naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
Even people who don't have a yard can grow herbs like rosemary and thyme, which are excellent pot culture plants.
Rosemary officinalis has small blue blossoms. Like all herbs, it doesn't mind poor soil, but it hates wet feet. Plant it in a well-drained, sunny spot in the garden. Or, grow it in a terracotta pot.
Because it flowers on new growth, prune rosemary in the summer after the blooms have died. In winter, protect its roots from freezing by bringing pots of rosemary indoors. Place them in a sunny window. Even during the shortest days of winter, rosemary needs at least two hours of sun each day.
R. officinalis is available in several attractive varieties, including R.o. prostratus, which has weeping branches; R.o. albus, which has white flowers; R. o. roseus, which has purple-pink blossoms that fade to mauve; and R.o. augustifolium, which smells like pine needles and makes a charming miniature Christmas tree.
No matter what the variety, rosemary has long been a symbol of remembrance, affection, and friendship.
There are over 100 varieties of thyme. Although all of them have tiny leaves and tiny blossoms, they vary in color and texture.
Two of the most commonly grown varieties are creeping thyme, Thymus serpyllum, also known as wild thyme, and common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, which is used for cooking. Both are easy-to-grow perennial herbs.
Plant wild thyme between stepping stones or use it as a fragrant replacement for grass. Common cooking thyme grows well in pots. Like its creeping cousin, it's a low grower.
© 2011 Jill Spencer