Cooking with Essential Oils 101: Rosemary Potatoes

plate with rosemary potatoes

Oh, the poor potato! Once a staple of many diets around the world, it has been unjustly maligned in recent years due to its starchiness, which lands it high on the glycemic index. In actuality this traditional food comes in degrees of starchiness depending on the variety, and also has a good amount of nutrients. There are documented reports of people living exclusively on potatoes for up to three years. In my mind, the worst thing about them is that they’re often ill-prepared, and what ends up on our plates is a soggy shadow of what a potato could be. 

A potato can be transformed, seemingly endlessly, by all kinds of methods. Fried, puréed, mashed, baked – they’re all delicious when done well. The recipe I’m presenting here is a modern version of the classic roasted potatoes with rosemary; the twist is the inclusion of essential oil. This recipe will elevate the humble potato into a heavenly little parcel that’s crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth pillowy on the inside, and the rosemary essential oil adds a new dimension of flavor – and nutrition – to this timeless dish.

Separating foods and their nutrients is not my favorite topic, but the more I learn about the nutritional profile of essential oils, the more intrigued I become. Essential oils are captured, concentrated plant energy – and their nutritional profiles seem to reflect that.  Studies place them high on the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, a measure of determining a substance’s ability to quench free radicals. For example, raw spinach was recently measured at around 1500 units, while studies landed rose essential oil at around 160,000, and clove essential oil at a staggering 1 million plus. Rosemary essential oil comes in around 330.  A daily intake between 3,000 and 5,000 units is thought to have a significant impact on plasma and tissue antioxidant capacity. When viewed from a nutritional standpoint, ingesting essential oils is a little like taking vitamin supplements, but with another benefit: flavor. 

Essential oils add interesting taste and energy to food, due to concentration and the way the flavor is distributed, but ingesting them is a controversial topic, and a personal choice. When buying essential oils, always look for quality; the best are pure and organic (and please make sure the essential oils are food grade).  I wouldn’t use – and certainly wouldn’t ingest – an oil if I weren’t completely confident in its source. Anytime you cook with essential oils, add them after you’ve removed the food from any heat source.  High heat diminishes nutritional properties.  They also work well in cold foods like smoothies, nut milks, jellies, non-alcoholic spritzers, dips, and icing. Always use them sparingly. Because they’re so concentrated, you only need a little. If you aren’t comfortable ingesting essential oils, you can make the recipe below using fresh or dried rosemary, which is also nutritious and delicious.

In Ayurveda, potatoes, like other vegetables that grow underground all summer, are generally best during the fall/winter vata season, from November to February.  However, their effect on the body varies depending on the type of potato and preparation. I prefer red-skinned potatoes, which are more waxy than starchy, and I always keep the skin on, which is where a lot of the nutrition is.

But enough about nutrition!  You won’t be thinking about that when these potatoes emerge hot, crispy and fragrant from the oven. And although a recent study confirmed the long held belief that rosemary improves memory, when you taste these potatoes, you’ll know that’s not the only reason they’re unforgettable.

Recipe: Rosemary Potatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 pounds small red potatoes, cleaned

1/8 cup melted ghee (or butter, or oil)

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)

4 drops organic, therapeutic grade rosemary essential oil

Minced fresh rosemary (optional, for garnish)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Quarter the potatoes, leaving the skin on. Place in a bowl and toss with ghee (or butter, or oil) and salt, making sure the potatoes are evenly coated.

3. Spread the potatoes onto the baking sheet in a single layer, making sure they have enough space between them to brown. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, flipping twice during cooking to ensure even browning.  Remove from the oven, add garlic, and bake for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are deeply golden and crisp.  Remove them from the oven and add rosemary essential oil and rosemary garnish, mixing well. Serve immediately.

Photo Credit: Shiraz Leyva

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