Helpful Herbs: Rosemary

If I were to name the one herb that I use most frequently in my recipes, it would be rosemary.  It pairs so well with so many of my favorite foods, and it’s easy to start and grow.

Rosemary in bloom.
Rosemary in bloom.

Rosemary can be purchased as a seedling, and starts very easily with cuttings from original plants.  It is aromatic in the garden, filling the air with a distinct, sweet odor.  It also will thrive in a container, and is a perfect plant to keep in a small kitchen garden.  A healthy rosemary can grow to up to four feet tall and four feet wide, so make sure that you plant it with plenty of room to grow.

The plants prefer warm, sandy soil and will not tolerate a hard frost.  If you live in a climate with a harsh winter, you can keep your rosemary indoors year round or transplant it into containers indoors for the winter months.  Make sure that your plants get plenty of bright light and water regularly.

Rosemary leaves can be dried for storage but are most flavorful when harvested fresh and chopped up for a recipe.  A fresh sprig can also be used to in vinegar, oil, or butter to add flavor.

The robust flavor of rosemary makes it a great herb to pair with long-cooking recipes, because the flavor will hold up well.  It will add depth to roast potatoes, pizzas, and roast chicken or pork.  There are even recipes for rosemary breads, and it can be added to soups and pastas for extra punch.

It is easy to include rosemary in your recipes, but you can also make an essential oil from the leaves and it is a key ingredient in many healing salves.  The aroma of rosemary has been shown reduce stress, and a whiff of the essential oil can relax people in stressful situations.  It can be applied topically to relieve arthritis and muscle pain, and eating it regularly will help relieve digestive problems and headaches.  Rosemary is full of carsonic acid which helps protect your brain and improve your memory.  Like many herbs it is also full of antioxidants which will help prevent infections like the common cold.

The name rosemary is Latin for dew of the sea, since legend has it that it was first discovered growing wild along seaside cliffs.  It has been part of herb lore since ancient Greek and Roman times, and was a common component of the gardens of these civilizations.  One of the flowers mentioned by Ophelia to Hamlet, rosemary’s power to enhance and protect memory has been alluded to for thousands of years.  Over time rosemary has been used to soothe nightmares, delay aging, and it was considered a key component in curing the bubonic plague.

Rosemary is an easy herb to grow and include in many recipes, or use as an essential oil.  It will help your memory and general health, and can be kept in a container on your kitchen windowsill or left in the garden as a decorative hedge.  One of the worthwhile herbs to grow, a rosemary plant should certainly be part of anyone’s herb garden.


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