If you just know rosemary from a spice jar, you’re missing out on a beautiful, fragrant plant that is especially fun to have in the house during the holidays. Rosemary is right up there with other Christmas herb traditions like mistletoe and frankincense.

Rosemary is in the mint family, with “leaves” that look a lot like pine needles. Run a branch through your fingers and its wonderful spicy fragrance will fill a room.

For a fun little Christmas “tree,” you can buy a rosemary plant in most any garden store – I found one in the supermarket – and decorate it (gently) with little bows and ornaments. Try to find one that hasn’t been “shaped” too much into a tree look and that has bright green needles. Also check to make sure it isn’t standing in water in the foil it’s wrapped in.

And don’t leave it in a cold car while you shop! When you get home, place your rosemary tree in a sunny location and be sure to check the soil to see if it needs water several times a week.

But rosemary is much more than just a cute decoration.

It has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb (as well as an amazing spice in cooking).

Like other curative herbs, rosemary contains a whole host of beneficial oils, antioxidants and compounds that contain anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

One of these is a component called cineole (see Chelsea’s post on rosemary and brain function, and also how to make your own rosemary-infused olive oil here.)

Cineole is also sold as an essential (concentrated) oil, and said to help purify the mind and spirit, a well as to help with concentration and mental fatigue.

Other amazing health benefits of rosemary include iron, fiber, copper, calcium, a host of B vitamins and the super important mineral manganese, which is a very potent antioxidant.

Now for cooking, there are even more ways to use fresh rosemary than dried. And that’s because you can add whole sprigs, or branches, to certain dishes like roasted meats, inside a whole roasting chicken, or as a topping when baking fish.

To use chopped fresh rosemary in a recipe, simply cut a branch off and pull it through a fork (you can also take off the needles with your fingers). Then just chop the needles as you would any other herb. (Rosemary is one of the best additions I’ve ever added to homemade bread. Not only will your bread taste like it came from a fancy restaurant, but the fragrance of rosemary – intertwined with the aroma of fresh bread – will fill your home!)

Rosemary also makes a classy addition to lemonade and cranberry juice drinks. Just add a whole branch in as a “stirrer.”

Or, try adding a sprig of rosemary to your gift wrappings to give a festive flare.

Once you’ve “adopted” a little rosemary plant and used its sprigs in cooking, you’ll never again want to be without this amazing, and delicious herb!

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