Learning Herbalism – Week 1 – Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”. (thanks Wikipedia)

Delicious Rosemary… oh how my kitchen would
suffer without you!

The plant is reasonably hardy in cooler climates and is fairly drought resistant. It generally performs well in zones 7-10. Cultivation is relatively easy. You should start seeds indoors about 10 weeks before last frost. Fill your pot nearly full of good seeding soil, then sprinkle seeds and cover with about an inch of additional soil. Keep evenly moist and you should have sprouts in 2-3 weeks. Once your plants are established, you can help strengthen them by placing them outdoors during the day and bringing them back indoors at night until the frost has passed. When you are ready to transfer them outdoors, they thrive in sandy, well draining soil and like about 6-8 hours of sun per day.

Harvest by snipping off sprigs as needed throughout the summer and fall. When the freeze approaches, the remaining harvest can be preserved by tying the sprigs into bundles and hanging inverted until dry. This will store well throughout the winter. You can optionally strip the leaves, or just store the sprigs whole in ziplock bags or jars.

As far as culinary application, this is a staple herb that resides in many kitchens. The herb is very aromatic with a pungent odor. It has a lemony-pine flavor that lends well to many dishes. Roasted lamb seasoned with rosemary, garlic and olive oil is a favorite preparation. It is also used frequently in tomato sauces, pizza sauce, and on pork. No Italian kitchen could do without this herb. Garlic and Rosemary butter is great served on steaks or in baked potatoes. It also lends well to stew recipes.

Medicinally, Rosemary has been recognized for ages. Boiled in water, it was said to “work against all manner of evils in the body.” The plant contains salicylic acid, which was the forerunner to aspirin. Rosemary oil rubbed into joints effectively eases arthritic or rheumatic pain.  It contains antibacterial and antimicrobial agents and is used in shampoos to aid in treatment of dandruff and may be beneficial for other skin problems as well. It is also being studied for potentials anti-cancer use since initial studies indicate that it contains compounds which seem to inhibit carcinogenic chemicals from attaching to DNA. Rosemary is also being studied in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have discovered that certain chemicals in the herb prevent the degradation of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical that Alzheimer’s patients often are deficient in.



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