Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the most beautiful and useful herbs; it’s evergreen so looks good all year round, has a wonderful aromatic scent, is delicious in cooking and has many other health benefits. It is very easy to grow and a small plant costs about £1.25 – £2.50. It will grow steadily year after year during spring and summer and its leaves can even be picked during winter.
The common rosemary will grow to over 3’/90cm high.
Rosemary is certainly well worth growing and if you enjoy cooking with this herb, a plant is much more economical than buying a pack of cut rosemary stems from the supermarket!
Rosmarinus means “dew of the sea” as the beautiful mauve to pale blue flowers appear dew-like and the plant will thrive in coastal areas. Pink and white flowered varieties are available as well as dwarf Prostratus Group (creeping rosemary) which is ideal for smaller gardens.
Rosemary is associated with remembrance, friendship and loyalty and has been used for centuries all over the world at weddings and funerals.
Rosemary is a perennial Mediterranean plant and thrives in ordinary well-drained soil. The plant can be grown in a pot or in the border in a sunny, sheltered position.
If growing in a pot, re-pot annually until the plant is fully grown.
The flowers appear in spring and can be added to spring salads for extra flavour and colour.
After flowering, carefully snip off the tips of the stems and any dead stems to encourage bushy growth. Prune mature plants in April by cutting back shoots by half.
Rosemary can be propagated easily. Take 6”/15cm cuttings during March or September, remove the lower leaves then plant the stems in ordinary garden soil. They will root quickly! Make sure to water them until established.
Do not allow rosemary to become water-logged at any time of year and protect from hard frosts in the winter.
Culinary Uses for Rosemary
To use in cooking, pick the needle-like leaves off the stems and chop finely. Alternatively, place a whole stem in stews and casseroles, then remove before serving.
A sprig of rosemary popped into the cavity of a chicken with half a lemon prior to roasting will give a wonderful flavour to the meat and gravy.
Rosemary goes especially well with lamb, chicken, ham and sausages.
During spring and summer, roasted new potatoes with whole cloves of garlic and finely chopped rosemary are delicious!
Add rosemary sprigs to the flames of a barbeque to add flavour to the cooking.
Other Uses for Rosemary
Make a cup of rosemary tea.
Rinse some rosemary stems and chop roughly. Place in a bowl and pour a mug of boiling water over them. Cover and leave for 10 minutes then strain. The tea is supposed to relieve mild depression and nervous tension, improve concentration, stimulate the liver and gall bladder, improve digestion and circulation.
Pregnant women shouldn’t use too much rosemary oil as excessive amounts can cause abortion. But I believe that using it fresh in cooking does no harm.
Make a rinse for dark hair (using the same method as rosemary tea above) and rub into hair after shampooing, don’t rinse out. It will make your hair smell good and give it shine. It’s also used to eliminate dandruff if used regularly. The herb is known for its stimulating and invigorating properties, so maybe this is why it works so well on the scalp.
For a stronger hair conditioner, infuse rosemary and nettle leaves together.
Use the cold tea as a mouth rinse for fresher breath.
Snip off some stems, leave to dry in the sun and add to potpourris.
Tuck little rosemary stems behind cupboards and cabinets to keep mice away.
Rosemary is a natural insecticide. Mosquitos hate it so place your rosemary near doors and windows in the summer to deter them from coming into the house. Scatter a few stems over the table when eating outside in the evening to keep the bugs away!