Growing And Using Rosemary

Growing rosemary is not difficult, and it is a vesatile herb with many uses. It's grown not only for use in cooking and potpourri, but can be used in the landscape.

Rosemary is a culinary herb with a long history. In ancient Rome, it was believed to strengthen the memory and it has long since been associated with remembrance and fidelity. In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." In England a spring of rosemary was often included in bridal bouquets to symbolize fidelity.

Fresh rosemary, best right from the garden, can be added to red meats, pork and chicken for its unique flavor. Top a roast with large sprigs of it, or stuff a roast chicken with several handfuls of it. Discard the sprigs after cooking - the flavor will have already been imparted to the dish, and rosemary's needle-like leaves are a bit tough and chewy.

To grow rosemary at home, it's easiest to start with small, nursery-grown plants. There are many different varieties, some growing tall and upright, others low and bushy. There are even prostrate varieties that will weep over the edges of a pot or retaining wall. All varieties are evergreen and most will bear tiny white or blue flowers intermittently. Rosemary is a tender perennial that will survive mild winters; further north it can be planted each spring and grown as an annual. Like most mediterannean plants, it needs good drainage and a hot, sunny site.

To dry fresh rosemary, cut several sprigs and hang them upside down in a spot with good air circulation. The dried needles can be used in cooking or added to potpourris. They can also be added to a log fire for a burst of fragrance.

In mediterranean countries, laundry was often spread out to dry on large rosemary shrubs. A fresh, mild scent was then transferred to clothing and bedding. If you have a rosemary plant of some size, try drying your pillowcases on it.

To make rosemary tea, crush or chop a handful of leaves and pour two cups of boiling water over it. Let it steep for at least ten minutes, then strain it. The resulting infusion can be drunken, or can be used as a final rinse that will bring a lustrous shine to clean hair.

If you live in a very cold climate, you can try bringing your potted rosemary inside for the winter, though it often will not do well. To maximize your chances of success, keep it in a cool, but very bright spot and mist it every day.

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