Substitute for Rosemary

Relishing aroma and burst of flavours would simply surge the quality of your food from “Okay” to “Oh my!”. Herbs have been part of all kinds of cuisines since time immemorial and Rosemary is a name that resonates delicious aroma while cooking meat and veggies alike. 

The local markets would not be able to keep a continuous stock of rosemary, calling for the need of a substitute for the herb. We are about to discuss few options that can substitute the traditional Mediterranean ingredient.

Rosemary is an evergreen herb from the Mediterranean region used in:

  1. Cooking meat dishes especially in grilling processes
  2. Salad dressings, marinades, fried veggies, desserts, etc
  3. Adding flavour to oils and vinegars
  4. Tea variants with infused herbal products
  5. Ornamental garden creations
  6. Reducing blood pressure, loss of memory and improving appetite conditions.

  • Flavour: Rosemary leaves have a very robust flavour which makes it the perfect choice for preparations having tangy taste and citrusy aroma.

  • Structure of the Leaf: Needle-like small leaves with a green colour on top and white lower region.

  • Cultivation: Rosemary is a plant that can be grown best in the Mediterranean region and Asia. Another favourable climate for the herb is a cold that falls below freezing temperatures. It is always preferred to cultivate herbs during mid-morning time to get the maximum flavour content. The amount of care needed for rosemary cultivation is comparatively high and the number of cultivators are less. Hence, the availability of this widely used herb is less in our local markets.

Need for Substitute

Rosemary definitely needs a substitute when it is unavailable in the market. Italian cuisine is one that highly requires the use of rosemary as a flavour and aroma giving ingredient. Hence, the huge need for alternative will lead us to a various number of options but what features of the herb can be replaced by the substitutes?

  • The strong minty, citrusy aroma.
  • Small or thin leaves that would not stand out after the cooking is completed.
  • The possibility of incorporating it in all cooking veggies and meat alike.

What can be a possible substitute for the aromatic rosemary? We have several options to consider. Here are a few:

DRIED ROSEMARY

Dried form of herbs and other ingredients are now being a huge attraction in our food markets these days. This is a way of making sure that we have a continuous availability of all ingredients around the year. Drying of fresh products will avoid bacterial growth and reduce the cost of highly priced ingredients. While the dried ingredients are being used in particular recipes, we would only need to add a very small quantity due to their rich flavour.

In the case of rosemary, 1 part of dried herb can be used for every 1.5 parts of the fresh herb. We should also make sure the dried herb never loses its aroma and if you cannot smell the flavour once the bottle is opened, then that shows your batch needs to be replaced with a fresh one.

Methods of drying:
  • Oven drying:
  1. On a cookie sheet place the herbs ready to be dried
  2. Leave it in an open oven to be slowly dried in low heat.
  3. Touch the leaves to see if they crumble, thus knowing that it has dried well.

This method will reduce an amount of potency from the fresh herb, hence we would need to add a higher quantity than the normal dried products.

  • Air drying:
  1. Cut the herbs during the right time of day.
  2. Tie the branches into small bundles and hang them upside down inside a dry room.
  3. It would be advisable to attach a paper bag with holes punched in it to be tied around each bundle individually.
  • Solar drying: This method would be more effective and practical in a region with dry and hot climate. We can place the harvested herb branches on drying screens. DIY drying screens would be very effective for this purpose.
  1. Attach a mesh or hardware cloth to an empty picture frame by stapling it firm
  2. Cover the surface with cheesecloth.
  3. Place the branches on this screen with ample distance between each other.
  4. Keep the screen under the sun until they become crisp and brittle.
  • Using a refrigerator: Quite confusing? Yes, this is a very simple and reliable method of preserving your favourite herbs using an extremely unexpected method. Keep the rosemary you have in hand inside a dry, cold refrigerator without any covers. Check back after few days to see that the herb has dried with a much ease by retaining its original colour, aroma and flavour.

How to store the dried herbs?

  • We will check if herbs are dried well by crumbling them between our fingers but it is better not to completely crumble the herbs and store them for use. It would be better to store dried flavours in their whole structure to retain the true aroma and tanginess.

  • Air tight containers would be preferred to keep the herbs dried for a long time without losing their qualities.

  • The jars should be dried well without even a drop of moisture and kept away from direct light and high heat.

  • There should not be even a trace of mould inside the jar, even if a little bit is found, we should replace it with a newer fresher batch.

  • Dried herbs will have a loss in their strength within a period of 6-8 months. Hence it would be better to keep the jars labelled with details such as date of jarring,etc.

Tips while cooking with dried herbs:

  • Even though it is advised not to crush and store the herbs, before adding them to your recipe, make sure they are reduced to smaller bits to release the strong aroma and flavour.

  • It would be better if we add the herbs towards the end of cooking if we are practising slow cooking. This is to make sure that the flavours are not lost and the taste remains in the dish.

  • We can also create our own signature seasoning mixes using the dried herbs.

OTHER FRESH HERBS

For those of us who prefer using the fresh herb additions in our recipes, there are some fresh herbs that are used in place of rosemary.

Thyme:

  • Similarities to Rosemary: Thyme and rosemary are similar in their appearance with a tiny structure, white and peppery colour below the green upper surface. The small structure often aids for its addition in dishes without even being chopped.
  • Flavour of Thyme: Thyme has a comparatively mild and simple flavour that mixes well with any different flavour. This makes it easily employable in all kinds of dishes from soups to salads. Most cooks prefer to use thyme in lamb dishes for the earthy flavour they carry.
  • Cultivation and Availability: This herb would be easily found in our local markets as they are said to be an easy cultivable plant. The preferred condition for their growth is hot and sunny climate. Unlike rosemary they can also withstand freezing conditions. If kept frozen they can be preserved upto months for use.
  • Dried thyme: Thyme is also another herb that can be preserved in its dried form like rosemary but compared to others, the flavour retention capacity of this green flavour filler is very high. Due to this reason we may also use dried thyme as a substitute for rosemary.

Different uses of thyme:

1. Medical uses:

  •  Apart from being used in different culinary preparations, thyme finds its use in medical treatments of different types. It is said to have a big role in treating ailments like diarrhea, arthritis, sore throat, etc.
  • They are also used as an antibacterial and insecticidal. These properties make them eligible to be used in treating skin diseases like eczema, acne,etc.
  • It is even believed that Thyme can cure cancer. Breast cancer and colon cancer is said to have been cured by the use of this perennial herb.

2.  Ornamental use: Decorative garden settings can definitely make good use of thyme plants. They have very exciting fresh green shades that add to the beauty of your home gardens. We can easily grow thyme from the broken and cracked areas of walls or concrete borders as well as in containers.

3. Destroying the disease spreading insects: Thyme finds a very efficient use in eradicating the spread of disease carrying insects like tiger mosquito in its larval stage.

Savory:

savory which is a herb that is commonly used in preparations like casseroles or simple vegetable recipes and winter savory is one that would be added to dishes to improve flavours similarly like the use of salt,pickle,etc.

  • Similarities to Rosemary: Winter savory has very less similarity to rosemary in its flavour while summer savory has more resemblance to it.
  • Flavour of savory: Summer counterpart of this herb has an equal flavour filling like rosemary, strong and tangy. The flavour and aroma of summer savory would not be lost when they are stored or added in preservatives for about an year. The winter savory herb on the other hand has a less delicate taste with a bitter tinge to it. Hence the latter cannot be used in place of rosemary as a substitute.
  • Cultivation and Availability: Loose well drained soil with a sunny climate is advisable for savory. The winter version of this herb is an evergreen perennial with woody stems whereas the summer type is an annual plant with soft and tender leaves and stems. Growth of savory is improved greatly by harvesting the leaves on a continued basis.
  • Dried Savory: Our local markets would definitely have good availability of dried savory leaves but the summer counterpart is the better choice of the two varieties. Its flavour and freshness is said to remain from one summer to another without any reduction.
Different Uses of Savory:

1. Medicinal Uses:

  • Savory has been used since ancient times for treating respiratory diseases, cough and sore throat.
  • Indigestion, diarrhea and and lack of appetite are conditions which can be cured by the use of savory as a medicine.
  • Besides the above options we can use savory to treat bites and stings from insects by applying it on the portion of the skin which has been affected.

2. A major part of herbal toothpastes and soaps which can be prescribed to people with  skin diseases or allergies.

Caraway Seed:

This is a substitute for rosemary in regards to the similarity in their flavours. We normally use the seeds of the caraway plant more than its leaves or roots. It is native to the central European region but is largely available in the markets of Middle east and Mediterranean areas. The seeds are brown and half moon shaped with a rough texture. They have structural similarity to fennel seeds hence the name Meridian Fennel.

  • Similarities to Rosemary: The citrusy, pungent and aromatic flavour of rosemary is perfectly found in caraway seeds but the structure is not in anyway similar since leaves are hardly used as a flavour giving component. 
  • Flavours of Caraway seed: The similarity in rosemary flavour of caraway seeds is very noticeable. This means that the aroma and taste is so strong reminding us to keep a very short leash while adding caraway in any preparation. Caraway seed cake is a very traditional dish in the authentic European cuisine. It would be the perfect choice when you have the curiosity to try tasting this herbal ingredient.
  • Cultivation and Availability: Naturally the plants grow in the mountainous regions of Europe. They grow with much strength and lushiness from the rocks found in the hilly areas with small fruits. Bigger fruits which are used in culinary practices and for the production of aromatic oils,etc are cultivated in well-drained organic matter. Even though caraway plants are perennial in nature they are sometimes cultivated in temperate and winter conditions as an annual or a biennial. 
  • Dried Caraway seeds: Since the seeds are being used we normally would go for the dried version.
Different uses of Caraway:

1. Medicinal Uses:

  • Caraway seeds are a great ingredient that we can add in our food dishes to increase the count of red blood cells and aid their formation. 
  • Rich in all necessary Vitamins, dietary fibres and other necessary minerals like potassium and magnesium, caraway seeds help us in improving our physiological functions.
  • It is said to have added qualities like being a cure for cancer or other neurological disorders.
  • This herb has a great effect for increasing the breast milk production in lactating mothers.

2. Skin care uses:

  • Caraway seed has a very good effect in reducing the wrinkles and give more healthy look for our skin.
  • It is also effective in treating scalp infections and other problems like lice infestation, hair loss and damaged hair texture.
  • Essential oils that can be used for face rejuvenation and curing the skin from boils or eruptions.  

Tarragon:

This is a perennial that grows mostly in the regions of North America and Eurasia. There are a number of varieties, namely French Tarragon, Russian Tarragon and Wild Tarragon. The French Tarragon is the variety that is mainly used in Culinary needs for their flavour and aroma. This is a herb which is mentioned in the folk medicines for the preparations from its oil obtained from the aerated parts.

  • Similarities to Rosemary: The appearance of Tarragon would be the foremost similarity it has with Rosemary. The spear like leaves resemble the leaves of fresh Rosemary. The flavour similarity is also noteworthy. The minty, overpowering flavour of Tarragon makes it a perfect substitute for Rosemary.
  • Flavours of Tarragon: Tarragon has a very intense flavour. French Tarragon is the variety that is used in cooking for its flavour filled taste. Minty, spicy, aromatic flavour makes it a worthy addition to your culinary masterpieces. Just like in the case of Rosemary it is advisable to add Tarragon towards the end of the process of cooking. 

This is to avoid undesirable tastes from developing and to make sure that the flavour of Tarragon remains when the dish is being served. The famous Béarnaise sauce demands the addition of this perennial herb for its flavour filled completion. The Russian counterpart of Tarragon is of mild flavours and can only be used for simple salad dressing or precooked food. It also loses the flavour and aroma with age. Summer vegetables which may be mixed with tomato can be flavoured using the tarragon herb.

  • Cultivation and Availability: The cultivation of Tarragon stands a bit different from the other crops we dealt with till now. French Tarragon that is required for our use is not cultivated from seeds, rather from process of root division. This is because the flowers of French Tarragon is sterile in nature. 

They require well aerated soil that is enriched by adding manure or other such nutrients. These plants thrive well in a warm climate but a hot condition should be avoided. It is preferred to harvest the leaves of Tarragon early in the morning. They would be available around the year due to their nature and can be kept fresh inside a fridge for a few weeks.

  • Dried Tarragon: Dried tarragon is a perfect substitute for dried rosemary. The dried version of this herb has a very strong and distinctive flavour and aroma. Hence it is advised not to overuse the product. It needs to be added in controlled quantity to make sure its flavour does not overpower the flavour of other ingredients.
Different uses of Tarragon:

1. Medicinal uses:

  • It can be used as a stimulant to increase the appetite and to reduce the symptoms which are caused due to anorexia. 
  • Tarragon helps in reducing the blood sugar.
  • The herb is very effective in starting menstruation for females suffering from problems related to the uterus.
  • Tarragon is said to give good sleep if consumed by people suffering from sleeplessness.
  • The antibacterial properties of Tarragon helps in preventing the spread of foodborne diseases.

2. Apart from the culinary and medical uses, Tarragon is also used in the perfume and oil extraction agency just like the other herbs.

3. Tarragon is used in crafts and such handy works because of its delicate structure and beautiful leaves.

Marjoram:

Marjoram is a herb that has a Mediterranean origin just like Rosemary and it is found mostly in the cold regions. Though it belongs to the Origanum family it has a wide distinction from the other members. The usually used herbs are known by the names SIet Marjoram or Knotted Marjoram.

  • Similarities to Rosemary: Both Marjoram and Rosemary has a similar Mediterranean origin which explains the similar effects they have on ordinary recipes we see. It would be very equivalent to adding Rosemary if Marjoram is added in the same quantities to recipes.
  • Flavours of Marjoram: The Mediterranean herb has very distinctive flavour and aroma which can be found as minty, subtle and lemony similar to the citrusy flavour of Rosemary. The flavour of Marjoram is most wonderfully experienced when it is used fresh. It is also advised that Marjoram should be added into a dish when it is being cooled down after the cooking is all completed. 

This is to make sure the spiciness of Marjoram is well preserved in the dish till it is served and enjoyed by the person who tries it. The gentle and delightful flavour makes it a perfect addition to salad dressings, soups, stews,etc.

  • Cultivation and Availability: Marjoram is a perennial but with a tender and soft structure. We normally use the leaves of the plant and these are harvested by cutting off the top part of the plant. This happens only when the flowering starts happening and the cut off part will be dried slowly in the shade to make the dried version of Marjoram herb. Hence we will have the availability of fresh and dried marjoram in our local markets and herbal product distributors. 
  • Dried Marjoram: As we discussed earlier drying of Marjoram is done by cutting off the flowered plant tops of Marjoram herb and then slowly drying it under the shade without direct exposure to the sun. It is said that both dried and fresh Marjoram can be interchangeably employed in recipes such that the dried version needs to be added only in a reduced quantity than the fresh version. Though the dried version of Marjoram is available in our markets, it is hugely advisable to make use of fresh leaves in Culinary preparations.
Different uses of Marjoram:

1. Medicinal Uses:

  • The Mediterranean flavour giver is high in necessary minerals like calcium, magnesium etc, in addition to the dietary fibre content vitamins like k and b6. 
  • It has high antiviral and antibacterial properties hence marjoram can be included in our everyday diet for better gut health.
  • Marjoram can give good improvement in Cardiovascular conditions in patients and it also acts as an antioxidant.
  • This herb has been traditionally in use for treating conditions like running nose, common cold, infections,etc.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles can be made proper by consuming marjoram.
  • Marjoram leaf tea is said to be a good cure for the condition polycystic ovary syndrome.

2. Skin care uses:

  • Marjoram is found to be having effective uses in treating skin conditions like eczema and wrinkling.
  • Acne and similar skin diseases can be controlled by the use of Marjoram.

3. It is added as an aroma giver in lotions, soaps and perfumes. These are mostly available in the shops selling herbal and traditional products.

4. Marjoram oil is of great use in aromatherapy and thereby as a stress reliever.

Bay Leaf:

A native Asian Minor herbal ingredient, Bay leaf can substitute Rosemary by its similar aroma properties. It is also found in the Mediterranean areas as well as other parts of the Asian Continent. It is the leaf of an evergreen tree named Laurel Tree.

  • Similarities to Rosemary: Bay leaf has a comparatively lighter flavour than Rosemary but the aroma can be much similar.
  • Flavours of Bay leaf: Bay leaf has a flavour that can be perfect for cooking meat products especially lamb dishes. It is recommended to be used after a slight drying under the sun. This is done to mellow done the bitter taste in the fresh leaves. Exposure to the sun also enhances the fragrant properties of this herb. The similarity of its flavour to that of Rosemary is in a lower degree hence the amount of addition of Bay leaf would be different from that of Rosemary.
  • Cultivation and Availability: Unlike the previous herbs, the Bay leaf plant can take different forms, both as an evergreen shrub and as a small tree. As the tree becomes a couple of years old, we will start plucking the leaves since there is not need to wait till the tree reaches a point of maturity. 

It does not have any fixed harvest time hence will be available at any time in our markets but midsummer season is the preferred time to harvest the leaves one bunch at a time to make sure they are full of oil and hence rich in flavour and aroma. The process of harvesting need to be done with much care. We should make sure that the larger leaves are selected when they are young and tender. This is to make sure that the flavour remains mellow than in the case of more matured leaves. The dried version of bay leaves are also being made available in the herb section.

  • Dried Bay Leaf: As discussed earlier there would be a passive drying of the leaves under the sun to avoid the strong bitter taste of the fresh leaves. In addition to this there would be an extended drying process to produce the dried herb version to be preserved and used around the year and to be shipped around the world wherever necessary. Dried bay leaves may be found either in the full structure or in the ground form.
Different uses of Bay leaf:

1. Medicinal Uses:

  • The chemical content found in Bay leaves are most effective for treating the condition of skin cancer.
  • They have very effective digestive properties and hence prescribed to the people suffering from gut problems.
  • Respiratory system problems can be solved by the use of bay leaves in our normal diet pattern or individually.
  • Bay leaf can be used to improve hair growth.
  • It is also consumed to control the condition of diabetes.

2. Bay leaves can be spread out in pantries and other storage rooms as a repellent to moths, silverfish, cockroaches,etc.

3. Bay leaves are very effective to prevent the growth of moulds and other insects.

Storage of Herbs

Fresh herbs:

  • Arrange them as bunches after cutting off unwanted part of the cut off branches and keep them immersed in jars of water. The level of water should be below the leaves.
  • Slightly moisten a paper or dish towel and cover the herbs in them and refrigerate. Make sure it should be loosely bound.

Dried Herbs:

  • Make sure that the whole form of the herb is maintained while storing.
  • Find airtight containers to store the herbs over a long time.
  • Avoid any kind of moisture from being present in the storage jars to avoid moulding.

Conclusion

Rosemary is a herb which is rich in flavour and aroma hence being largely used in various culinary preparations as an important ingredient. Substituting this herb would mean substituting the original aroma and flavour without compromising in any degree.

We have discussed some very effective replacements for this herb when it is unavailable in the market or from local herbal product stores. Drying the herb itself can be an effective way to replace the flavour filled Rosemary leaves but for those who prefer using the fresh products, we have the wide range of herbs like, Thyme, savory, bay leaves,etc. Create flavour filled healthy meals with the fresh herbs. 

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