Rosemary is fragrant and versatile

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 09:39 AM

In the garden, kitchen, bath and herbal apothecary, Rosemary is a time-honored evergreen, aromatic perennial shrub that is easily recognized by its distinctive aroma. Native to the hills along the Mediterranean, Portugal and northwestern Spain, both the upright and prostrate rosemary varieties are easily grown in our area. Autumn is a good time to plant rosemary in the warm soil of the garden and landscape. Rosemary is a member of the mint family and likes full sun, well-drained soil and benefits from regular trimming. Rosemary is not bothered by the reflective heat of sunny patios or walls and can be used as accents on terraces and in pots. It is also drought tolerant, pest resistant and makes a fragrant hedgerow or garden border. Starting rosemary from seed is not recommended and it does not transplant easily once it has become established in the garden. If you already have rosemary (or know a friend who does), you can easily root cuttings to expand your plantings. Transplants are also readily available. The thousands of rosemary plants that Windcrest Farm has sold over the past ten years originated from the cuttings of one plant that was planted in our garden 35 years ago.

As a seasoning, rosemary's flavor has been described as pungent, somewhat piney, sweeter than mint and has a slight ginger finale. When baking bread, add 1tsp. for each loaf. Or create an herb butter by combing 2 tsp. of rosemary with 1/2 cup of softened unsalted butter. Rosemary adds flavor to marinades, salad dressings and cream sauces. Dried and frozen rosemary have a much stronger flavor than fresh. In addition, the extract of rosemary is an antioxidant and has been shown to be a better preservative than the common chemical food additives of BHA and BHT.

In the bath, a warm soak with rosemary added is said to "refresh and stimulate a worn and sluggish body". For brunettes, a rosemary rinse will brighten your hair. Simply steep a sprig of rosemary in one cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes. Let cool and work the rinse into your hair after shampooing.

Rosemary is included in many herbalists' remedies for headaches. The volatile oil of the flowers and leaves have been used for centuries for depression and muscle spasms. During World War II, a mixture of rosemary leaves and juniper berries was burned in French hospitals to kill germs. Recent research has found that rosemary oil does indeed have some antibacterial effects.

Psychologists at Northumbria University, Newcastle, conducted a study which showed that sniffing the essential oil from rosemary enhances memory functions. The researchers said their findings could have implications for treating people with memory impairment. According to WebMD, the researchers presented evidence that sniffing the essential oil from rosemary improved long-term memory and performance in mental arithmetic by 75%.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, rosemary is often used in aromatherapy to increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress. One study suggests that rosemary, may lower cortisol levels and help reduce anxiety. Additional studies are ongoing regarding rosemary's ability to promote eye health, providing a new approach for treating age-related macular degeneration.

Rosemary is surrounded by legends, superstitions and historical uses and still signifies  remembrance, friendship and love today. At one time rosemary was used in almost every wedding ceremony!


Mary Roberts and Ray Tarlton are owners and managers of  Windcrest Farm, a USDA Certified Organic farm and greenhouse in Monroe, NC . Visit for more information about plants, produce and classes. Facebook: Windcrest Farm Organics