Newest Review: ... and in about two months they should have their own root system and can be replanted. USING ROSEMARY Rosemary dries out very easily ... more
Rosemary And Me
Member Name: jillmurphy
Date: 30/05/04, updated on 30/05/04 (1851 review reads)
Advantages: Pretty, Edible
Disadvantages: Not fully hardy
Like many herbs, rosemary is a rather attractive plant. It has long, narrow, spine-like leaves of a silvery, grey-green colour. There is a single species ? r.officinalis ? but you can buy several varieties. Albus is the most popular and the one I prefer, for it has delicate, blue-mauve flowers and is perfect for culinary use. There is also a white-flowered variety, Miss Jessops, and you can buy a ground cover type, Prostratus, to use in rockeries and the like. It is a dense, pretty bush and, as an evergreen, makes a good [edible!] hedge. Grown to full height, it is between four and six feet tall. Mine is not much more than a year old and stands at a healthy two and a bit feet.
Hard to grow from seed, you will find small plants at any local garden centre. My local nursery is selling small herbs of all varieties for a paltry 99p currently, so a plant will not set you back even as much as a Schwartz jar of the dried herb. It is easy to propagate too; just take a side shoot as a cutting, stick it in a pot of sand mixed with compost, and wait for the roots to take. They will! My little bush has provided cuttings to several neighbours very successfully.
Originating in the Mediterranean, rosemary prefers sunny spots and sandy soil. The sunshine is essential, perhaps the sandy soil less so. My soil here has a lot of clay in it, but is dressed regularly with homemade compost and ? aside from a sprinkling of sand and some compost when I planted it ? my rosemary bush has thrived in its sunny corner of the heavy-soiled garden. Aside from needing sunshine and as light a soil as possible, rosemary is a strong enough plant. Mine has suffered many an assault from small boys wrestling and football games and has shrugged them off happily. It is winter hardy across most of the south, although it probably will not tolerate prolonged snow and frosts. Perhaps
, if you live in the wintry north, you would be better to grow your rosemary in a pot and winter it indoors. All my mother's herbs grow in pots, and although she has no need to bring her rosemary in over the winter, it has grown wonderfully in terracotta. You will at least be able to choose the planting medium ? but do remember not to over-water and to give it the occasional feed.
I do not prune my rosemary to suburban prettiness, although you can er? "topiarise" it into other shapes than hedges if you wish. Neat gardening is not my strong point, and would never be, even if I liked it, which I do not. I am lazy for starters and for seconds, I like wild and unruly. Most of all, though, I like to see dinner when I look in the garden! My rosemary bush is a working plant, and in use all the time.
Mostly, I pick and cook with fresh sprigs of rosemary. I just hop outside and snip a half a dozen shoots. However, you can dry it. Just harvest what you need ? although do not take too much, no more than say, a quarter of the plant ? make it into bunches, and hang it in the airing cupboard to dry. Your towels will smell delicious! Strip the needles, and store them in airtight containers. They will keep for several months. They do say that the strongest flavour comes from the leaves when the plant is flowering, but I have never noticed a difference.
When I say that my rosemary bush is a working plant, I mean it. It is in use every week without fail. Whenever we roast lamb, I make slits in the meat and push in cloves of garlic; I also scatter six or eight sprigs of rosemary over it. It smells gorgeous when cooking and adds a wonderful, pungent, herby flavour. Mixed vegetables roasted in good olive oil is another staple dish around here and it benefits hugely from the same six to eight sprigs scattered over the top.
65;nother favourite use of mine for rosemary is in root vegetable soup. It adds a wonderful, herby depth to a thick soup made from parsnips and swede. Just add it in as you cook the vegetables, but make sure that you retrieve the sprigs before you liquidise it! Dried, I tend to use rosemary together with other herbs ? sage, thyme, and bay ? as a kind of bouquet garni, mixed together in a muslin bag and popped in to whatever soup, casserole or stew I am making. My pal and fellow dooyoo contributor, Malu, recently sent me some dried, wild Sardinian rosemary that she had harvested herself, recommending that I allowed it to infuse in the water in which I boiled pasta. Ohhhhhhh. My goodness. I served some pasta with a very simple mushroom and crème fraiche sauce and it was WONDERFUL. The pasta had taken on a very subtle rosemary flavour and it tasted gorgeous. I shall try this with my ? albeit less pungent ? home-grown herb.
You could also make rosemary-infused oil. This is wonderful for drizzling over the top of soups and for dipping good bread into. I found the method on the internet some years ago, and it is as easy as falling off a log. Take four parts olive oil to one part chopped rosemary leaves (squash the chopped leaves together, you need plenty). Mix them up and put them in a slow cooker for about two hours. Let the mixture cool thoroughly and then strain through muslin into a glass jar. That's it! You have a lovely, green-hued oil that will keep for about two months. You could also make rosemary and garlic butter. It is wonderful for smearing over lamb chops or beef steaks before you grill them. Take half a 250g packet of unsalted butter, two cloves of crushed garlic and a good tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary leaves. Mash them all up together as best you can ? a pestle and mortar is best. Once mix
ed, make a sausage shape of it and wrap it in greaseproof paper. You can keep it in the freezer for a couple of months. Just saw off a slice or two, as you need it. Do not use butter straight from the fridge, or it will be hard work. Let it soften a bit first!
It is said also that essential oil of rosemary is very useful as an aromatherapy tool, good for muscular pain, digestion and the circulation. I cannot vouch for this, for I do not use it in this way (and I have no idea how one distils oil from flowers!) but, in my opinion, it is probably worth a try if you have need. I am not a great one for alternative health, but I am convinced that aromatherapy works for colds and sinus problems (I use Olbas Oil, a blend), for headaches (I use peppermint oil) and I am positive that use of proper, pure tea tree oil is the only foolproof weapon against the ubiquitous nits. So I would say that oil of rosemary has to be at least worth trying.
Thank you for my gift, Malu, and for asking me to post an opinion about rosemary. It is not my usual kind of subject, but I really enjoyed writing it!