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Rosemary Herb: Facts and Lore About the Rosemary Plant

Updated on September 12, 2014

The Wonderful Herb, Rosemary

Rosemary is a popular herb with a distinctive piney scent. Not only is it an attractive herb that's easy to grow, it tastes great in lots of different recipes--especially Mediterranean-style meals! In my opinion, a good roast chicken isn't complete without a healthy sprinkling of rosemary.

What is Rosemary?

Rosemary--That's a Plant, Right?

Rosemary gets its name not from roses or a from woman named Mary, but from the Latin rosmarinus, which translates to "dew of the sea." Although the rosemary herb is a member of the mint family, it's an evergreen plant that looks and smells very much like pine.

The rosemary plant is a shrubby thing that can grow to be as tall as five feet, if you let it. The stems are covered with slender, inch-long, pine-like leaves. Rosemary flowers aren't very showy, and are usually white, lavender, or blue.

Rosemary Lore

Legends and Myths Surrounding the Rosemary Herb

Humans have long believed that rosemary can improve memory, which is why it was so often used in weddings and funerals. A bride might wear a wreath made from the rosemary plant to help the couple remember their wedding vows. Mourners would also throw sprigs of rosemary into graves, a symbol that the dead would not be forgotten.

The Chinese believed that rosemary could cure certain ailments. They used rosemary to ward off headaches and even cure baldness. The Greeks also believed that rosemary could aid the liver and improve digestion.

Whether or not you believe in the power of rosemary, it sure tastes good in certain recipes.

Caring for Potted Rosemary

Rosemary is a great herb to grow in pots. If you have a potted rosemary, you can bring it indoors when there's a frost. Rosemary is a heat-loving plant and doesn't deal with cold very well.

A few things a rosemary plant needs is good drainage and air circulation. If your rosemary is looked a little sad and peaked, it's probably time to re-pot it. Re-pot your rosemary once a year to keep it healthy.

If you re-pot your rosemary once a year, water it every other day, and bring it indoors when the weather turns cold, it should stay healthy and happy.

Storing Rosemary

The beauty of growing your own potted rosemary is that you can have a continuously fresh supply of the herb; you only snip some sprigs or leaves as you need them. However, there may be times when you need to store some sprigs of rosemary for a while. There are different approaches:

  • Store rosemary in a plastic bag in the fridge. This will help it stay fresh longer.
  • Freeze rosemary. If you definitely won't be using rosemary for some time, freezing it is the best way to retain most of the flavor.
  • Dry the rosemary. Hang the rosemary sprigs upside-down in a warm, dry, dark place. Once dry, store the rosemary sprigs in an airtight container.

Rosemary in Cooking

Rosemary Recipes, Rosemary as an Ingredient

Rosemary tastes best when combined with chicken, pork, and lamb, though many people report that it's an excellent seasoning for fish. It also does a lot for potatoes. I've used rosemary for making roast chicken and for making herbal bread.

Quick tips:

  • Chopping and mincing the rosemary brings out the most flavor. Remove the leaves first and discard the stem.
  • You can add sprigs of fresh rosemary to many recipes as you're cooking them, then remove the sprigs before serving. The food will still absorb that rosemary zest.
  • A little can go a long way. Feel free to experiment, but remember that too much rosemary could overpower other tastes and smells.

Rosemary Feedback

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    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      Lovely. I have added this to the featured lens section of R is for Rosemary in my A to Z of Herbs and Spices series.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      I've pretty much newly discovered rosemary ... but more for its fragrance properties. Love it!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      I grow lots of rosemary, and it's so pretty now with the flowers blooming. (The bees sure love it.) Nicely done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Beautiful! Exactly what I was hoping and folklore!