Rosemary. Woodsy. Romantic. Complex. I LOVE how Rosemary smells and have loved brushing against it as I run up and down the hill that my herb garden is tucked into. However, I have yet to actually learn what in the world to DO with the fragrant stalks I finally just harvested.
Part of me hesitates to harvest my plants because I don’t want to “waste” them. I have to keep reminding myself that NOT harvesting them is the waste, especially as winter approaches! So, in the spirit of using my resources fully, I would love to share with you all about Rosemary; growing it, cooking with it, and using it to stay healthy & sharp.
The name Rosemary means “dew of the sea.” This lovely perennial is originally from the Mediterranean, but will grow happily anywhere it seems, as long as you meet its few needs. In warmer southern zones you can plant Rosemary in the fall & enjoy it year round. In colder climates you can either plant it in the ground & harvest before a frost or plant it in a pot & keep it mobile so you can bring it inside in the winter. I live in zone 7/6b so I am trying both. I have it planted in a nice sheltered area against my house and have taken a few cuttings to see if I can get them to root in a pot for winter enjoyment.
Growing Rosemary Outdoors
What does Rosemary like you ask? Botanical.com suggests growing rosemary in a light, rather dry soil in a sheltered location. This is the opposite of our windy, rocky, clay hill (that is the bane of my gardening existence.) I had to laugh because mine is growing very well in clay, though it is against a southern exposed wall somewhat protected from the wind.
Growing Rosemary Indoors
What to do in the winter? Here are a few tips I picked up for growing Rosemary inside. This fragrant evergreen needs lots of light, but not too much heat or humidity. This makes it an excellent houseplant for winter, especially since the woodstove tends to dry out the air in our house. Don’t go overboard with the watering either; too much water can cause powdery mildew. Dr. Mercola’s website suggests misting your plant with water a few times a week. I am really hoping that my cuttings take root in their pot & I will be able to enjoy them this winter (even if I can’t necessarily harvest them.)
Benefits of Rosemary
Now that we have covered the how of growing Rosemary we should move on to the why; what to do with your glorious harvest?
Rosemary is a good source of vitamins & minerals including iron, calcium, B-6 (medicalnews.com) vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Manganese, and Magnesium. (organicfacts.net) It is also an excellent source of antioxidants. Medicinally, this herb has been used for centuries for an extremely wide variety of purpose, though the main purpose has probably been to improve mental sharpness.
Medicinal Uses . . .
- Rosemary contains carnosic acid, which fights damage from free radicals and thus can help prevent memory loss. Just smelling rosemary is said to improve cognitive ability. Studies have been done that have shown that using Rosemary increases the quality of your memory, though not necessarily the speed of your memory.
- Rosemary can also be used to improve your mood & zap stress, whether used aromatically, topically, or more intensively as an essential oil. (organicfacts.net)
- It is also great for your stomach! Rosemary has been proven to fight the stomach bacteria H pylori and aid in the prevention of staph infections. Many cultures have used it to treat various stomach ailments from diarrhea to constipation.
- It can also be used to relieve muscles aches when applied topically. In fact, Rosemary Essential oil has been approved to treat muscle pain and arthritis in Germany.
- Additionally, it is reported that Rosemary can speed up the healing of wounds and bruises when applied to the skin. I would be willing to try this just because it smells so good!
- Rosemary can help to relieve congestion when added to a steam treatment. Simply boil three cups of water and add the hot water to a bowl with a few sprigs of rosemary. Lean your face over the bowl, place a towel over your head to contain the steam, and inhale the aroma to clear your nasal passages.
- Don’t forget about Rosemary’s antimicrobial properties either. Use a strong infusion of Rosemary and Clove to make a mouthwash. Using this will help to eliminate the nasty bacteria responsible for gum disease and tooth decay, and give you nice fresh breath! Rosemary oil can also be added to your regular toothpaste.
Side note; While rosemary is appealing to us, apparently it isn’t so attractive to bugs and rodents. Many folks have suggested using it to keep the insects away and tucking some sprigs in nooks and crannies to repel mice in your home. I just may try that in our basement this year.
Cooking with Rosemary
Of course, you don’t JUST use Rosemary for the health benefits, you add it to your cooking for the amazing flavor too! Rosemary is related to mint like many other herbs, but it is said to have a “warmer, bitter, more astringent flavor” (organicfacts.net)
- One great idea I picked up was making a vinegar or olive oil infusion with Rosemary to add some pizzazz to recipes that normally would call for plain vinegar or oil. Rosemary olive oil could also be used for a dip for garlic bread or used as a salad dressing.
- You can also make rosemary salt by layering sea salt over rosemary sprigs. Let them sit for a few days to a few weeks to infuse the Rosemary flavor into the salt, sift to remove the rosemary (or don’t worry about it.)
- Rosemary is great addition to chicken and lamb, though I can’t say that I have tried it yet for venison. I really need to work on finding herbs to complement my husband’s hunting hobby. Rosemary seems to mix best with things that are already somewhat sweet including sweet potato, roast veggies, citrus, zucchini, etc.
- For all my fellow bread lovers out there, consider mixing it into your bread dough for some extra interest. It not only will add some amazing flavor, but it looks beautiful as well. I am excited to add it to the recipe the next time I make pita bread then pair the pitas with some fresh hummus. Yum!
And there you have it; a quick primer on what I have learned about growing & using Rosemary. Please share & feel free to add any other ways you use this lovely herb in the comments below!