The Herb of Remembrance
With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, and Florida’s version of winter in full swing, I am hunkering down indoors to avoid the cold (30s at night—50s during the day) and blustery wind. I am not a fan of cold weather. I suppose it is fortunate that our Florida winter comes along in dribs and drabs usually—a few days of chilly weather followed by temperate or warm interludes. I guess they (the weather mavens) are blaming the weird weather this year on El Nino. Whatever the reasons, when we would have welcomed some cooler temperatures during the holidays, it was pretty close to hot, uncomfortably warm at any rate. Now, when my mind strays to the herb garden and spring, the chilliest weather of the season seems intent on lingering for longer than usual.
I have ventured out for chores now and again, when the weather has moderated. I began in the herb bed next to the Garden House. It is in dire need of a good trimming, thinning and otherwise cleaning out. The biggest chore involves the two gigantic rosemarys that I have planted there. Both were smallish shrubs when I first added them in, but in a fit of magnificent “Herban Sprawl” , they have nearly taken over the small bed. I could, and may in the future, just dig them up and replace them with less invasive plants, but this aromatic shrub is one of my very favorites. I am just not ready to give up these magnificent specimens of Rosmarinus officinalis.
Heart & Head ~ Wisdom, Loyalty & Love
Rosemary is a herb whose use spans from ancient times to the present. It is highly aromatic, and I would grow it for its pungent, piney smell alone. There are volumes of lore about this shrubby herb.
- As a herb that strengthens memory, it was used for both weddings and funerals. At weddings, it was incorporated in the wreath worn by the bride. Sprigs of rosemary were given to mourners and laid at grave-sites in ancient times to demonstrate loyalty.
- Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavor winter ales and wine. It was also used in Christmas and New Years decorations.
- Being freely cultivated in traditional kitchen gardens, Rosemary was said to represent the dominant influence of the lady of the house. ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’
- Spaniards revered it as one of the bushes that gave shelter to the Virgin Mary in her flight into Egypt, and call it Romero, the Pilgrim’s Flower.
- In French hospitals it was customary to burn Rosemary with Juniper berries to purify the air and prevent infection.
- The list of Rosemarys traditional uses goes on and on.
This woody, perennial herb with its fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers is a native of the Mediterranean region. Today, rosemary is recognized as being possessed of several medicinal properties. The plant contains salicylic acid, the forerunner of aspirin. Massaging the oil of rosemary into joints often eases arthritic or rheumatic pain. It also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial agents. Modern herbalists use it to treat a variety of skin disorders. Tea from this herb is recommended to help support digestion, promote cognitive function and act as an antioxidant.
The herb is also being studied for potential anti-cancer effects. Some studies have indicated that its compounds may inhibit carcinogenic chemicals from binding to cellular DNA. Researchers are presently looking into the possibility of using chemical constituents of rosemary to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Rosemary is attractive and very drought tolerant, making it ideal for xeriscape landscaping in warmer climates. Though some cultivars are hardy up to Zone 6, it needs to be brought inside where there are harsher winters. It requires only sunlight, good drainage and ample air circulation to thrive. A sandy, well draining soil and 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight daily are the ideal conditions for growth. It can be started by seed, cutting, layering or root division. I have grown this herb successfully in Wisconsin (overwintering indoors), Texas, North Carolina and Florida. However, I have never had plants become as large and robust as they have here in the Sunshine State. There seems to be a scarcity of blooms on my plants here though, in comparison with those other venues.
I made these rolls to go with dinner last night, and they really were marvelous. The link above will take you to the Blog where I found this tasty recipe.
As a culinary herb, rosemary also shines. Some people find it too strong, but for those who love it as I do, it is a superb seasoning in the kitchen— as a flavoring for vegetables and beans, in Mediterranean fare of all sorts, roasted and grilled meats, and for breads and other baked goods. Rosemary is one of the five herbs traditionally comprising the bouquet garni—the bundle of fresh herbs used in stocks and stews, and it is often infused in olive oil to be used for dipping or cooking.
In the garden, the kitchen, and the medicine chest I find Rosemary to be an indispensable herb. Hope you enjoy hearing about my adventures with this fragrant evergreen herb. I would love to hear about your adventures in cultivating it, and your favorite uses for rosemary…
Till next time,