Rosemary is one of my favorite plants to grow and use. I love the way it smells, I love the texture, and I love the taste. It’s a powerful plant; not just in looks and scent, but in its historical and cultural associations. Rosemary has many benefits. It looks great in the garden, has awesome aromatherapy properties and tastes wonderful in sweet and savory dishes.
One of the traditional associations of rosemary is for rememberance. In ancient times, it was used to adorn the bodies of loved ones during funerals. It was common practice to toss branches of rosemary branches into the grave, a symbol that the departed friend would not be forgotten. Sprigs of rosemary were laid at grave sites to demonstrate loyalty. In recent history, rosemary was planted in the grave lots of family members. Nowadays, rosemary wreaths are commonly used at funerals or laid on a loved one’s burial site.
The scent of the herb as been used to improve cognitive accuracy for centuries. Ancient Greek scholars wore rosemary wreaths on their heads during exams to help with recall. In studies, sniffing rosemary has been shown to improve memory and help with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The next time you need to improve your memory, grab a handful of rosemary and deeply inhale!
Rosemary is a great source of natural antioxidants-compounds that help neutralize free radicals. Studies show that rosemary can help prevent cancer and age-related skin damage. It’s rich in carnosol (anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agent) and a rich source of vitamin E (another powerful antioxidant). It’s helpful for dietary aliments as well. It has been shown to help with hearburn, liver, and gallbladder pain. The next time you are roasting chicken or a big slab of beef, give it a generous rubbing of chopped, fresh rosemary! It’s not just for roasted meat or potatoes, try rosemary in cakes and sweet dishes. This Blueberry, Buttermilk & Rosemary Brown Butter Cake by Local Milk is a wonderful example of how to use the herb in a sweet dish.
How to grow
Rosemary is a wonderful plant to have in your garden and landscape. It originated in the warm climate of the Mediterranean, so it’s not cold hardy in nothern climates. It can reach 3 feet in height, stretching to 5 feet unless clipped. In zone 8 and south, rosemary can be used as an evergreen hedge. In zone 7 and colder, rosemary will need protection in cold weather. We live in Zone 7 and have only lost our rosemary shrub once (the winter of 2013-14~that was a unusually cold winter in Georgia).
Rosemary tolerates partial shade, it prefers full sun and light. It likes well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Keep the soil uniformly moist and allow it to dry out between waterings. Mulch to keep roots moist in summer and insulated in winter. If you live in a cold area, you might want to grow rosemary in a container so you can bring it in for the winter. You can trim rosemary at any time for use. Try drying it at the end of the season to add to stews and roasts in the fall and winter.
If you don’t have rosemary in your garden, you should give it a try. Even if you do not like the taste of the herb, it’s a lovely backdrop plant. It’s needle-like leaves and brilliant blue flowers offers texture and interest to any garden.
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