As part of my search for new herbs to use for cooking and grilling, I found a company named Richters Herbs, which is based in Ontario, Canada. Richters sells both plants and seeds. While perusing the herbs in their online plant catalog, I noticed that they were selling a type of rosemary dubbed Barbeque Rosemary. The name sounded intriguing and I took the bait and read the description. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbeque’ grows firm, woody stems that are strong enough to be used as skewers. Well, I’m not about to turn down the opportunity to test a new grill toy — much less one that is both partially edible and flavor enhancing.
A year and a half ago, I bought three small specimens from Richters Herbs. These plants were too small to be used immediately. They needed time in the pot and in the garden to develop the big woody stems that I saw in the pictures. Over the last eighteen months, they have matured into small bushes with stems thick enough to hold kabobs on the grill. The plants fared fine in the Zone 8b hot sun. The specimen I planted in my garden didn’t require any maintenance. The two I planted in pots needed regular watering.
In May I harvested my first batch of stems. I will refer to the stems as skewers henceforth. Covered with rosemary leaves, the skewers were thick and strong. The only part of the skewer that was not really usable was the tip, which had new growth and was too green and flexible. I cut off that part so that the skewer would be consistently rigid along its length.
For the first beta test on the gas grill, I loaded the barbeque rosemary skewers with lamb sirloin, yellow crooked neck squash, red onion and green bell pepper. I packed the pieces of lamb and veggies tightly, leaving no gaps between each piece. The lamb sirloin kabobs were rubbed with olive oil and green zatar — a dry spice mix consisting of dried Syrian oregano, dried sumac and ground sesame seeds. The veggies were simply marinated in olive oil, pink Himalayan salt (not that it matters) and freshly cracked black pepper. I have found that the key to success with kabobs is to make sure that they have an ample coating of salt and pepper. Some of the salt and pepper is going to stick and/or run on to the grill when the juices run out of the kabobs. Being stingy with salt and pepper here is a Bad Idea.
Here’s the thing: lamb sirloin is a flavor bomb when coated with green zatar, skewered with fresh barbeque rosemary and roasted over a gas grill. The rosemary skewers heat up during grilling, releasing rosemary essences (oils) into the dead center of the lamb and fresh vegetables. The rosemary flavor that seeped into my kabobs was sublime. It was fresh. It was woody and cool and had a finish that just would not quit, like a fine red wine. I could not stop eating the kabobs. The whole experience was sublime.
In terms of performance, the barbeque rosemary skewers held up just fine. I never bothered to use tongs. I simply grabbed each end of the skewer with my bare fingers and rotated them a quarter turn about every five minutes or so. The fresh skewers do not need to be soaked. They have as much moisture as they are ever going to have when freshly cut. The ends of my skewers did not burn over medium heat. They were a touch charred but still had structural integrity.
One trick that I used was to drill holes into the kabobs before skewering them. I used a meat thermometer with a stainless steel spike to poke holes in the lamb and vegetables. The reason for doing this was to prevent the pieces from scraping the rosemary leaves off the stem when they were pushed on to the skewer. I wanted the leaves to remain on the stem and in the center of the food. What I found is that pieces that were not pre-drilled tended to scrape the leaves off the skewers. This is a minor technical detail, though. Either way, the skewer is going to release rosemary flavor into the center of the food when it is heated up. The moisture that escapes from the stems carries rosemary essences with it, and these have nowhere to go other than into the kabobs, which are tightly packed on the skewer.
In summary, barbeque rosemary skewers are a great grill toy, especially for lamb lovers. I am already planning to put more Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbeque’ in my gardens.