Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Romance of Rosemary!

The Herb Society's (UK) The Romance of Rosemary by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor
Before I forget completely, here is the fourth in a quartet of booklets by The Herb Society (UK) The Romance of Rosemary compiled by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor.  The preface is by Caroline Conran who writes that garlic and rosemary are a great combination because garlic tempers the strong flavor of rosemary.  If I hadn't been making rosemary garlic jelly for several years, and enjoyed the combination, I wouldn't have believed it.  If a room smelled musty, a few branches burned in the fireplace will give the room a sweet fragrance.

It is native to southern Europe, Asia Minor (or Turkey) and along the Mediterranean coasts.  It grows best by the sea and will grow inland and is found in regions of the Sahara.  It has been cultivated in the UK for over 600 years and probably introduced to England by the Romans.

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with needle shaped leaves.  It has lovely blue, pink or white flowers depending on the variety grown.  The flowers are very attractive to the bees in the herb garden.  Rosemary has a very strong taste and odor of camphor or pine.  Best in very well drained soil and sheltered from the winter winds in England.  Here in the mid-Atlantic region, rosemarys must go indoors to survive, but even then it can be tricky to get them through the winter.  A dry or too wet rosemary is a dead one.

There are three methods of propagation, seed (I wouldn't waste time with this method because it is slow.), cuttings and layering.  "Taking cutting 2 to 4 inches long or cuttings from the half-ripened wood with a "heel" is the quickest form of increase."  Layering is the most fool-proof form.  If you have an older bush with long branches, you can take a branch, scrape a wound on the branch and pin it to the ground and cover the pin with soil and water and wait until it forms roots.  It doesn't say how long this takes in the booklet.  I would say it would be take at least six to eight weeks.  Once rooting has taken place, you can severe the baby rosemary from its mom.

As I noted previously, you must bring in your rosemary if you live in the north and place it on a south, west or east facing window.  If you only have north, you will have to give it an artificial light source as well.  You want it to have great air circulation and if you have forced air heat, you will need to place a bowl of water near by to produce humidity.  I have always found that my rosemarys in containers do bloom easier than ones in the garden.  I think being pot bound or under a bit of stress gives the plant encouragement to bloom.  It is also a very good candidate for bonsai.

Harvest your rosemary when it is in bud or before and not when it is in flower.  It is very easily dried and keeps a very green color even after drying.

The Greeks thought it strengthened the brain and memory.  The Romans used it in their bath houses and as a strewing herb.  One of the many Christian legends is that when Mary was resting during her escape to Egypt, she placed her cloak over a rosemary bush and turned the white flowers to the blue of her cloak.  Rosemary is part of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale in which is was used in a failed attempt to awaken her.  In the language of flowers and herbs, rosemary is for remembrance.

Rosemary was found in herbals as early as the year 1000 and was listed as a remedy for toothache.  Gertrude Jekyll wrote about it that she planted it all over her garden to enjoy the incense of the rosemary everywhere she was.

Rosemary was described in the 15th century as a customary condiment for salted meats.  In 1981 (when this booklet was written) was a "high favorite" in current English cooking.  Rosemary in herbes de Provence were used to flavor olives.  Dipping a branch of rosemary in oil and sweeping it over fish being grilled on the grill was another use.  One good thing about rosemary is that it holds its flavor whether used fresh or dried.  It also says in this booklet that it should never be used uncooked.  The reasoning given is the spikiness of the needle like leaves may get caught in the throat.  It talks about putting them in a bag or having some way to take them out of the dish you are making.  If you chop them up finely or grind them into a powder, you will not have a problem.

As Thanksgiving is near, the one recipe that was in this booklet was for Turkey Souffle.  I think I will give that a go after the Thanksgiving holiday next week and will share it with you if it is a success.

The other use for rosemary is in cosmetics.  In colonial America, it was thought that a rosemary rinse preserved the color in brown and black hair, but also the curl!  Rosemary oil is still used today for both skin and hair products.  There is a recipe for rosemary water which then is used to make an astringent lotion, cold cream and hair tonic. 

So you see rosemary is a very traditional and necessary part of an herb garden and I hope that I have encouraged you to explore more about rosemary and its uses.  Thanks to The Herb Society (UK) for these informative booklets on chives, parsley, mint and rosemary.   Since it is such a rainy and warm day outside and I may not get enough time tomorrow to post this, here it is a bit early.


lemonverbenalady said...

Faith said...

I wish I had a fireplace to throw some rosemary into it...I'll bet that smell wonderful. They smell
very much like Christmas to me. We have some here at the Nature Center in our garden, it is tall
and still growing in November. I went out today, I'm going to try to grow myself some...Thank you for sharing this wonderful post
about Rosemary. :)
November 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM

lemonverbenalady said...

I copied your nice comment over to the current post, Faith. Hope you don't mind! Glad I gave you some inspiration! xo

Carol Henrichs said...

Thanks, I loved all this good info about rosemary, the only plant that seems to thrive in my Ozark landscape. This summer, I gave my plant a good haircut. I put several cuttings into a vase, added water, and kept it on the table on the deck. It got lots of sun, but I never let it dry out. It continued growing. Eventually the container was filled with roots. I potted it in soil I'd like to report that it is doing well.

Faith said...

don't mind at all. I have 4-5 lovely stalks of Rosemary sitting in water right now, I'll get to them later in the week. I'll let you know when I have success with the rooting process. I like propagating like this and will give anything a go...

Pammy Sue said...

I came over to read a little at Faith's recommendation on her blog. I was happy to see Rosemary was your feature yesterday. I absolutely LOVE rosemary and have several around my house outside that have become huge. (I live in Texas) They grow so well here for me, and I use them in cooking all the time. I can't wait to try throwing a branch on the fire tonight! I love the smell! Thank you for a great post on Rosemary.

lemonverbenalady said...

Great idea, Carol! So glad you shared it! I wish I could have mine in the ground all year round! Not to be! xo

Well, as you can see above, it worked for Carol! It will work for you as well! xo

Thanks ladies for stopping by and for sharing your information! xo

lemonverbenalady said...

Hi Pammy Sue, Welcome to SW PA! Thanks to Faith for the recommendation! So glad I can give you some new thoughts on rosemary. Love my Texas gals! xo

Faith said...

put a shout out about your place on my posting for today. Hope you get new visitors who would love to learn more as I do. :)

lemonverbenalady said...

Thanks, dear Faith for the herbal plug! xo