Rosemary has been a prized herb with many uses for centuries. It has been associated with enhanced brain function, it has health benefits, it has a lovely scent and it adds flavor to your recipes. Read this article to learn more about this ancient herb and, if you don’t already grow this herb in your garden, why you should consider doing so next season.
Shari Mayer, Master Gardener
Rosemary is truly a very special herb and one of my very favorites. Today, we may love rosemary for its scent, use in the kitchen and decorative qualities but this is an herb that has been appreciated by humans for centuries. The use of rosemary has a long and distinguished history. The first known reference to rosemary dates back to Egyptian cuneiforms over 7,000 years ago. But most of the early references to this herb are from the Greeks and Romans, beginning around 500 B.C. Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean, especially around the coastal areas. Its name comes from ‘ros’ and ‘marinus’, which translates to ‘dew of the sea’. Originally classified as ‘rosmarinus officinalis’, in 2017 it was reclassified as ‘salvia rosmarinus’.
Rosemary has long been associated with aiding in brain function. Greek scholars would braid it into their hair to help them with their studies. Today it is known to be rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to help with digestion and hair growth and renewal. When used in cooking, it is used sparingly, as it has a very strong flavor and a little goes a long way.
Rosemary is a perennial shrub in zones 7 to 10. Here in Minnesota, it is grown as an annual, as it cannot survive our harsh winters. My favorite way to grow rosemary is in combination containers. The ‘prostrata’ varieties have a trailing habit, and tuck right up to the edge and spill over, creating a fabulous lacy carpet. Since rosemary is slow growing, it will not overwhelm other plants. I purchase starters as early in the season as possible, which allows it to get bigger before I transplant it. This summer, I used several as a trailer in a container with a boxwood.
A week before the temperatures were forecast to drop into the 40s, I repotted the rosemary into a smaller container all by itself to settle in before bringing it inside for the winter. It is a good candidate for overwintering, as you can leave it out much longer than other plants, and put it out again in early spring. The plant can survive a frost, so typically I bring it in around November, and put it out again in April. Once indoors for the winter, place it in a sunny spot, away from drafts. It likes humidity, but hates wet feet. Misting it often is recommended.
Some winters I do not try to overwinter rosemary in containers. Instead, I just make a fresh rosemary bouquet. This works well for the upright versions. Cut the stems at the base of the plant and place in a container of water. Make sure you strip the leaves at the bottom, as they will rot in water (these can be used in your cooking). The rosemary bouquet eventually dwindles as you use it, however, it usually takes me through the holiday season before it is gone.
Rosemary has been a prized herb with many uses for centuries for good reason. If you don’t already grow this herb in your garden, consider doing so next season.
Photo Credit: kampung-kuliner.blogspot.com (All Creative Commons) (1), Shari Mayer (2)