Victory With Rosemary

TreeHugger thinks it's time to re-invent the Victory Garden. In the WWII period of US history, a "Victory Garden" largely a matter of growing your own food in the backyard was a government promoted way for citizens to get fruit and veggies that were unavailable due to fuel shortages and from diverting commercial production to the troops overseas. A half—century later we are entering another global crisis: Climate Change and fuel shortages caused by Peak Oil and rapidly growing consumption. Growing your own food is personally redeeming in the same way that recycling is. More than that, it tastes better than store-bought, can save you money, and reduces your potential exposure to pesticides.We'll start our Victory Garden project by having our writers unveil their own victorious secrets for growing and cooking. To begin we'd like to introduce you to our first kitchen garden SuperModel plant, Rosmarinus officinalis: a.k.a "Rosemary."

Unlike the one shown here on the garden runway, we recommend you save money and buy the smallest plants you can find. Rosemary grows fast, does well in containers and terra firma, looks nice as an ornamental, will produce for you until well after the frost, and makes for some good cooking. Pests seldom bother Rosemary, not even deer, so you needn't worry about fencing.

The important thing is to get some planted now so you can harvest some sprigs by the time the small potatoes are are in the market. Don't worry much about choosing among varieties. To experiment, get three small plants, perhaps one of each variety, and put all three in a large container or near each other in the garden.

You can start harvesting sprigs and needles as soon as the plant is a foot tall. This writer has tried many harvesting/cooking techniques and suggests the following. Don't sweat the details. I cook with the woody stem and needles intact. You can separate the needles if you like but some recipes do better to leave them on the stem.

To separate the needles take a side clipper pliers or hand-pruner and clip off the sprigs well into the woody base. Over a sheet of newspaper use your forefinger and thumb to lightly pinch on each sprig an inch or two below the light green tip, and pull back toward the thick part of the stem. Leaves will fall away. Use them fresh or freeze for the holidays. Note: freezing is the only way to preserve the high aromatic compounds that make fresh rosemary so wonderful. Try either of these recipes as soon as your plants are big enough.

Rosemary New Potatoes:
Pour about a quarter inch deep of olive oil in a wok or deep pan. Don't turn on the heat yet. First peel several cloves of garlic and split them into quarters, tossing into the oil — the more the better. Now toss in a good handful or two of fresh rosemary leaves (frozen if it's winter and you've saved what you harvested). On top of this oily heap, set a pound or so of whole, washed potatoes. Get them as small as possible. The "baby" or "new" potatoes that are sold early in the season are fabulous for this. Sprinkle on some coarse salt. Now cover tightly and turn the heat on medium to low.

Don't open the lid for at least 15 minutes about the amount of time it takes for wonderful smells to emerge. Toss the potatoes with a spoon. Then prick a potato that was near the bottom to see if it's soft. A few more minutes, a few tosses of the spoon, and all should be done to tender and slightly wrinkly. Don't overcook and never add any water.

You can always reheat them later if need be. When you serve, remove the potatoes with a tongs, so that most of the rosemary leaves will fall back into the pan. Sprinkle generously with coarse black pepper and they're ready to eat.

Rosemary Chicken:
Salt the cavity of a whole roasting chicken. Put three or four large rosemary sprigs, tips first, into the cavity as far as you can push them. Fill up the remaining cavity space with quartered apples. Use a tart variety like Macintosh and don't bother to peel them. There is no need to tie up the cavity opening. Season the outside however you like and bake the chicken until its' done.