Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) is an attractive, evergreen, shrub that has glossy green needle like leaves and a scent that is similar to pine needles. It is actually a member of the mint family and there are many varieties to choose from; some dwarf, others upright or prostrate. It also has a wide range of uses – from culinary to medicinal, as well as cosmetic and craft making. The tiny flowers appear in spring and can be pale blue, pink or white, depending on the variety you have chosen.
Rosemary will grow in any sheltered, sunny position, as long as it is reasonably dry. It also needs well drained soil and will be more fragrant if grown in alkaline soils. It is easy to grow as it is pest resistant and will tolerate some drought conditions. It will also withstand salt, so will grow well in a seaside location, as well as being a good pot grown plant too.
Rosemary can also be used for topiary, as it needs a regular trim to stop it going straggly anyway. It is best to trim it after it has flowered to prevent it going straggly and never trim it in winter, as it may become damaged by frost.
The flowers can be picked in the spring to be used in potpourri and to make wreaths. Flowers are also used in salads and as decorations on desserts and puddings. The leaves, or sprigs, are used for cooking and you can pick these as and when required. Remember though, that Rosemary is a strong herb, so only use a few sprigs and remove whole sprigs before eating. Alternatively, use the leaves and discard the stalk, prior to using. Rosemary goes very well with Lamb or Pork but can also be used in salad dressings and marinades.
Rosemary tea is easy to make and has many benefits, including treating headaches and digestive problems. You simply leave it to steep in boiling water for at least five minutes and strain before drinking.
Rosemary dries well, due the high oil content in the leaves. You can hang the sprigs of Rosemary in a dry, cool place before stripping the leaves from the stems and storing in airtight containers. It is worth remembering that the dried Rosemary can have a stronger taste than fresh Rosemary, so use it sparingly!
Alternatively, you can freeze sprigs of Rosemary in freezer bags for up to six months. To use them, simply crumble before they thaw.