Although I have not given up my love affair with Sweet Basil, my attentions have recently turned to another herb plant – rosemary. Rosmarinus officinalis, a member of the mint family, is a wonderful culinary herb with an impressive background.
This herb has had an important role in both legend and religion. Ancient Greeks used rosemary plants to adorn virgins before sacrificing them, while the Romans believed it helped memory, and wore the herb while studying. In the Bible, rosemary supposedly turned from white to blue when Mary hung her cloak on it while fleeing Herod’s soldiers and because of this religious significance, these plants were always included in monastery gardens of Europe.
Rosemary is referred to in literature as a symbol of remembrance and love and often used in wedding ceremonies. It is said that if there is rosemary in the garden, there will be a strong woman in the house! Used both as a culinary and medicinal herb, rosemary was believed to cure a host of maladies: depression, headaches, stomach ailments and was said to repel the Black Plague.
The name Rosemary is based on Latin words meaning “dew of the sea” and the plant is native to the rocky Mediterranean region. It has small, light-blue flowers and narrow, pine-needle-like evergreen leaves that have a strong, sweet, piney scent that adds a distinctive flavor to foods.
Rosemary is a wonderful perennial for permanent landscaping in areas where winters are mild, making fine ground covers or handsome hedges. It does best in full sun with well-drained soil. Growth can be controlled by frequent pinching.
I have planted both 'Arp' and 'Tuscan Blue' in our garden and have been delighted with the results. Both varieties have weathered three winters (Zone 7) with a prevailing winter wind relentlessly blowing, and each spring have brought the promise of renewed vigor.
These upright, rigid growers, with their intensely fragrant branches, have been the backbone of many summer flower arrangements. They out-last their flower-cousins and their distinctive scent is an added bonus. In addition to use in arranging, rosemary is a must in any kitchen. Roast lamb is incomplete without rosemary!