Who knew that a humble herb could add years to your life?
Well, there’s a little village in Italy called Acciaroli, population 700, where one in 10 residents is 100 years old or over, and the reason has been planted on the fact they eat a lot of rosemary.
The research team, lead by Dr Maisel, a cardiologist from The University of California, San Diego, delved into the lives of the centenarians, looking at their vitals and lifestyle.
They discovered that the sprightly oldies had the ‘micro-circulation’ of significantly younger people.
The research, released in September this year, links the almost-daily consumption of rosemary – infused in the local olive oil, cooked in pasta dishes and chewed raw – to good ‘micro-circulation’ and the knock-on effect of longevity.
Not bad for a herb that is cheap to buy and grows easily in your own home garden.
According to Jane Edmanson, a longtime presenter on ABC’s Gardening Australia, rosemary is an easy and reliable herb to grow.
“Simply pop it in a pot or the ground in a sunny spot, give it some water to establish itself, then leave it. A light prune once a year will keep the rosemary bush neat and thick,” she says.
One plant will provide you with more than you can use.
You can buy a cutting from your local nursery or simply save a few 10-centimetre sprigs from a herb bouquet from the supermarket.
Aussie chef Tobie Puttock, trained in the art of Italian cooking and author of Cook Like An Italian, Daily Italian and Italian Local, loves rosemary.
“Italian cooking uses rosemary in abundance,” he says.
Mr Puttock loves to use rosemary as a brush in cooking. He keeps rosemary sprigs in olive oil with some salt and pepper and brushes meat for barbecues before cooking.
He says rosemary, along with roughly chopped garlic, onion, carrots and celery sautéed in olive oil and cooked, forms ‘soffrito’ – the basis for many different stocks, soups, sauces and other dishes.
“At the River Café in London, we made slow braised beef shin with rosemary added at three different stages of the dish.”
“And you can use it – very sparingly as it has a very intense flavour – in desserts, like a panna cotta, with some grappa.”
Naturopath, nutritionist and chiropractor Damian Kristof is also a big fan of rosemary.
Mr Kristof has an in-depth knowledge of the body, nervous system, food functions and responses, and says that rosemary is a fantastic herb to use naturopathically.
According to Mr Kristof, Rosemary contains Rosmarinic acid, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities.
Mr Kristof has a podcast on successful ageing called 100 Not Out and is fascinated by the ‘blue zones’ around the world where people live longer and better.
He says that over time the consumption of rosemary could have a cumulative beneficial effect, so the residents in Acciaroli have probably eaten a “fair bit” of rosemary over a long period of time and that’s where the benefits lie.
“There’s certainly no harm in increasing your consumption and use of rosemary, and indeed I use rosemary extract to help many patients, but we may not get the same results in longevity [as the Acciarolians] starting now.”
Ten ways to use rosemary
- Steep 1- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary needles in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drink as a tea.
- Place sprigs of rosemary in best-quality extra virgin olive oil and allow the flavour to infuse before using.
- Place fresh rosemary needles in butter to add to steamed veggies or grilled steak.
- Use sprigs of rosemary as skewers to barbecue veggies or meat. The rosemary imparts a delicious flavour and looks beautiful on a platter.
- Mix rosemary needles through ricotta for a tasty sandwich spread.
- Roast rosemary with garlic, potatoes and cauliflower.
- Cook rosemary in a peach and pecan tart for a delicious dessert.
- Add a few sprigs of rosemary towards the end of cooking a chickpea and tomato soup.
- Add rosemary to the dough for home made focaccia and chapatti.
- Add rosemary to a cheeky blood orange negroni.