|The Herb Society's (UK) The Romance of Rosemary by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor|
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.