Rosemary is an aromatic perennial herb beloved for millenia by the peoples surrounding the Mediterranean for its pungent scent, culinary, and decorative value. One of the oldest cultivated herbs, Rosmarinus officinalis or "dew of the sea" has served mankind for thousands of years and been used for a multitude of purposes. Brewing the leaves into strong tea, Romans used it for aching joints, arthritis, a digestive aid, and mouthwash. Later during the plague years, its resinous branches were burned to purify the air or carried to ward off sickness ... helped in part by its religious association with the Virgin Mary. Dried over rosemary bushes, clothing left in the sun would later discourage moths.
Varieties range in height from two to eight feet tall and blooms are blue, pink, and white. Some are prostrate in habit; others attain more notable vertical habits.
Growing rosemary isn't difficult. Depending on your climate, rosemary can be planted in the yard or garden as a border plant or single ornamental. It likes sun and good drainage, and does very well in hot or dry climates. It will tolerate some freezing temperatures, especially if it's protected from cold winds, but doesn't want to be completely frozen for a long period. In climates where winters are long and cold, cultivate in a pot that can be brought inside and left in a sunny window or greenhouse.
Rosemary is tolerant of various soils. A more alkaline soil produces a more fragrant plant, however, so add ground eggshells or wood ash if your soil tends to the acidic side.
One of the biggest benefits of growing rosemary is the ability to pick just a couple sprigs for cooking thereby enjoying what may be its finest use. Rosemary is incredibly versatile and can be used with chicken, lamb, pork, pastas, breads, and sauces. The woody stems can be used in a barbecue to infuse meats and vegetables with a wonderful aroma and as skewers for kabobs.
The long needle-like leaves are tough and oily, but they store well. To dry, strip the leaves from the stems just before blooming.
Rosemary lends itself to decorative uses as well. Use the trimmings to create a decorative wreath either alone or with other herbs. Wreaths can be hung on the wall or used as table decorations and they make lovely gifts.
Sew rosemary leaves into sachets and store with linens or use in a potpourri to scent an entire room.
Cosmetic uses include using as a facial steam and using the tea as a hair rinse.
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