Rosemary Culture

This semi-hardy, evergreen, aromatic shrub comes to us steeped in historical lore by long use through our many cultures. Long known as a plant associated with head and brain, it is charmingly represented in various guises by ritual and ceremony, and has strong ties with the feminine. Rosemary smells like a little pine forest.

Rosemary is famed for strengthening the memory, and thus is considered the emblem of fidelity for lovers. Sprigs of the herb were worn entwined in the bridal wreath. A rosemary branch, guilded and tied with "silkan ribands of all colours was presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty," says M. Grieve.

As an herb sacred to remembrance and friendship it was also emblematic of the funeral wakes. A sprig was carried in hand and dropped onto the coffin after it was lowered in the earth.

It is said to grow no taller than the height of the Saviour and after thirty-three years it only increases in breadth.

The ancients used rosemary in their religious ceremonies--it was known as incensier. In French hospitals it was customary to burn rosemary with juniper berries as a purifier and disease preventative. It was carried by judges to prevent gaol fever. Culinary gardens have always fostered rosemary, often as a centerpiece.

It grows well sheltered by a south-facing wall, and prefers a light, sandy soil with excellent drainage. It can be kept in a large pot and brought inside for safety in winter. Its main constituents are borneol, a special camphor, and tannic acid. It smells like pine and is often decorated as such at Christmas.

Hungary water was created for the queen of Hungary as an external rubefacient for her paralyzed limbs. It was made by putting 1œ pounds of fresh rosemary flowering tops into one gallon of spiritis of wine, allowed to stand four days, and then distilled.

Rosemary yields its virtues completely to wine, partially to water. Rosemary wine is made by steeping fresh sprigs of the plant for a week; pour off the liquid and sip as a cordial in small quantities. It is particularly good for headaches, nervous tension and poor circulation. A tea or infusion may be made from the leaves, but be careful not to let steam escape. The essential oil is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and stimulating to the blood. Oil of rosemary is exceptionally good for hair and scalp, stimulating the hair-bulbs to renewed growth.

An infusion of the tops, fresh or dried and combined with borax, makes a useful hairwash, reputedly preventing dandruff.

Rosemary is delightfully fragrant and is used in the famous eau-de-cologne. A kitchen is not complete without rosemary. If you have a sunny window a beautiful potted one will do you good service.

It is a strong-flavored herb so use sparingly but well. It makes savory poultry, lamb, pork, fish, and dressings, plus breads, salads, and sauces. Rosemarinus officinalis, known in its natural habitat of the Mediterranean as "sea dew," is a charming plant of many uses that is without equal in any good herb garden.

Rosemary pizza: Put rosemary leaves into your bread dough and roll out to fit a greased pizza pan. Sprinkle a bit more oil on the flattened dough, and spread with tomato sauce and a teaspoon of dried rosemary. Top it all with grated Italian cheese. Bake twenty minutes at 400 degrees F.

Article written by our friend in grime, Hildegard of Twin Oaks Community. Click here for information on her annual herb workshop.