Is It Ever Okay To Use Rosemary With The Stem Attached?

Whether it be stews, lasagnas, stir-fries, or a simple dish of meat and potatoes, using fresh herbs in your meals always brings a verdant flavor to the taste buds. No matter what type of food you were raised on, be it Italian, Korean, Ethiopian, etc., traditional cuisine almost always utilizes some rendition of herbs to round out its food.

In fact, herbs have been utilized for centuries now to disguise bad flavors or to enhance good ones. Back in the days before refrigeration, meats and vegetables went bad quickly but were often eaten despite their less-than-fresh quality. Herbs were caked onto these bad dishes to make everything smell and taste better (via Universal Class). 

Today, we still consume herbs for their remarkably diverse flavors. In fact, adding herbs to mashed potatoes can improve your favorite dish in remarkable ways. However, we also turn to herbs for additional reasons. According to Better Health, herbs are rich in antioxidants and promote overall bodily wellness. In essence, this means we shouldn't be looking at herbs just for their deliciousness. We also have to use them for their health benefits. That being said, not all herbs are 100% edible.

Rosemary is woody... sometimes

Rosemary is an ancient and rather intense herb native to the Mediterranean, Britannica reports. Because of its woodsy, bitter notes, rosemary is often used to season lamb, sausages, stews, and potatoes. We've even previously recommended adding rosemary to transform your grilled foods.

It is also considered to be a "woody" herb, which is a shorthand way to describe a plant whose stems become bark-like and hard over time (via Dirty Gardening). As a result, when it comes to using rosemary in your meals, it is more often than not that you'll want to separate the softer green leaves from the main stem. However, as with everything else in life, this rule comes with an exception. 

According to America's Test Kitchen, woody-stemmed herbs like rosemary or thyme can sometimes have thin, green, delicate stems instead of the hardier stuff. If your herbs are soft and pliable from stem to leaf, feel free to chop up the entire spring and use it to flavor your meals. The softer stems will be edible and not taste like splinters floating around in your food. 

If you're worried about whether your rosemary stem is too tough, cut a piece off and try to chew on it yourself! If you find it soft and chewy, feel free to throw it into your dish, stem, and all!