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Rosemary on my mind

Herb Snips


Shakespeare’s Ophelia tells us that “rosemary is for remembrance” and over time it has come to be known as such. It is given in the hope that you will be thought about or to signify that someone is on your mind. Did Ophelia mean remembrance or remembering? The ancient Greeks wore garlands of rosemary during exams to improve memory. It is being used today to improve the thinking process in Alzheimer patients. It appears that Ophelia’s meaning may have been misunderstood.

Whatever the case, rosemary is a plant of worth! Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen herb that has the scent of pine, camphor, and lemon. The leaves vary from delicate gray needles to broader greener ones. Its growth habit may be tall or prostrate, twisted or straight, bushy or sparse. The clustered flowers include shades of violet, blue, pink, or white. These variations are determined by the plant species, and will add vibrancy to any garden all year long.

Blue Spire grows upright to five feet tall as well as wide, and can be shaped if consistently trimmed. The tiny flowers grow along the stem and are deep blue in color. Prostratus displays lavender blue flowers in its low growing or trailing fashion, spilling down hills and over rocks. Majorca Pink grows to three feet high by four feet wide. It twists into picturesque shapes with pink, fruit scented flowers. Albus has white flowers with streaks of lilac and grows semi-upright to four feet tall and wide. With its golden edged leaves during cold weather, Golden Rain is bushy and grows upright to three feet high and wide. The flowers are a deep violet-blue. These are just a few of the many varieties available to fill your garden with color and fragrance.

Rosemary stands tall and pungent as a culinary herb with all varieties edible but not equal in taste. I suggest you sample a leaf before purchasing a plant if you plan to cook with it. It enhances potent vegetables such as cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli. It augments the flavor of meats, sauces, gravies, drinks and breads (see recipes). Bruise fresh leaves by crushing them with the flat side of a fork to release the essential oils and impart maximum flavor. When rosemary is dried it is stronger tasting because the water has been removed and the oils are concentrated. Typical of all herbs you only need half as much of the dried herb as the fresh in cooking. It can be overpowering but if used in moderation it will please your sense of smell and taste.

As a medicinal herb it is effective through three of our senses. Essential oil is used in massage ointments for the external treatment of body aches because it is absorbed through the skin. Use only as directed on the package because concentrations vary. It takes 500 pounds of rosemary to produce one pound of essential oil so it is expensive. I suggest you test it on a small area of your skin in case there is a skin sensitivity. CAUTION: Medicinal doses of rosemary should not be taken during pregnancy or if one suffers from seizures. Always follow prescription directions. The amounts used in cooking are perfectly safe.

Because of absorption through the olfactory system it is effective in steamers and bouquets. The essential oil of rosemary is used in aromatherapy to enhance concentration and memory. When aromatics like rosemary are inhaled they stimulate receptors in the brain that trigger the release of hormones and chemicals producing a sense of well being. Rosemary can be ingested in a tincture made by filling a small bottle with the leaves and covering it with vodka. Allow it to set for four weeks, and strain out the leaves. The body will quickly absorb several drops under the tongue. It can be used in your evening cocktail as well!

Rosemary has myriad uses and benefits, in a galaxy of plants. It couldn’t be better! It is a plant worth having whether it increases memory or simply thoughtfulness. Try some, and you may find that it enhances both. Contact me if you want a small plant, because I have them in abundance!

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Enjoy an herbally delightful month!


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