Rosemary, a wonderful tasting herb that is so much more than just a seasoning for meat. It can also help with things like digestion. It also has some healing properties such as being antimicrobial and antispasmodic. In medieval times people would send plants and flowers to each other instead of letters. Each plant held a special meaning. Rosemary was sent for remembrance. Interestingly enough, studies are being done on how rosemary can improve memory and play a part in helping those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Grow Rosemary
Rosemary grows best in zones 7-10. It does not like temperatures that drop below 40 degrees. Rosemary does grow well in containers if you are in a cooler zone. I’m in a zone 6 and had rosemary outside for years without any problems and then one spring it was just gone. Maybe we finally had a cold enough winter to kill it, poor thing. That being said you can try your luck with growing rosemary outdoors in the garden but I recommend keeping a little of it in a container. It will do best in a deep container. As it grows keep upgrading the size of the container, allowing room for deep roots.
To start your own rosemary or to keep your crop growing, it is best to purchase a rosemary plant or start new plants from cuttings. The seeds grow very slowly so rooting your stem cuttings works best. Use a bit of rooting hormone to strengthen the roots if you would like. Keep them warm and keep the soil moist but not soggy until the roots are well established. Rosemary prefers full sun and well-drained, warm, fertile soil. It grows to be 12-36 inches tall but can grow much larger. Space your plants 12-15 inches apart.
How to Harvest and Preserve Rosemary
The parts harvested from a rosemary plant are the leaves and stem. This makes rosemary extremely easy to harvest. You can take snips of their slim, needle-like leaves as you need them throughout the growing season or you can harvest larger amounts to process.
The best time to harvest is when the weather is warm and the rosemary is resinous. This means the plant is good and sticky with the resin when you cut it. The sticky resin is the part with all the best properties! This is usually in late summer but it depends on your climate. You don’t have to wait until this time to use your rosemary but when harvesting for medicinal purposes, plan your big harvest when there is resin present. When harvesting larger amounts, cut the stems back to one or two nodes above the woody growth. Don’t cut or through the woody growth. Many people will cut this far back just before bringing the plant in for the winter.
To preserve rosemary, take your harvested stems, bundle them and hang them upside down in a dry space out of direct sunlight. You can also lay them flat to dry on a screen. Dehydrating rosemary is another way to dry rosemary. Just lay the cut stems out on your dehydrator and dehydrate at a low temperature until dry. Rosemary can be frozen in oil to preserve for culinary uses later. You can get creative and mix other herbs in your oil if you’d like. You can also make a tincture, oil or an herbal vinegar with the fresh rosemary right after harvesting it. Whether you choose to dry your rosemary or turn it into a wonderful concoction, store the end product out of direct sunlight so it keeps longer.
How to Buy Rosemary
You can purchase rosemary as a plant at most greenhouses to get your crop started. Sometimes you can even find a plant or two in the produce section at your grocery store. When purchasing dried rosemary for culinary uses or remedies you have a few options. You can, of course, go to a local grocery store and find it in the spice aisle but I find it much more cost effective to purchase it in bulk from Mountain Rose Herb, Bulk Herb store or other places such as these. You can find rosemary leaves or rosemary powder. These online stores also have tea blends, extracts, and hydrosols with rosemary as an ingredient for you to try out. You can also find rosemary essential oil where you purchase your essential oils. The essential oil is a very easy and effective way to use rosemary.
Culinary Uses of Rosemary
You may only know rosemary as a culinary spice. Honestly, I am far from a cook and I’m still learning how to use my herbs in food. I’m much more comfortable using them as remedies. Although in many cases remedies and food are one in the same. Rosemary, like sage, is often used to season lamb and other fatty meats. This not only adds wonderful flavor but it aids in the digestion of these fatty meats. Rosemary also aids in the digestion of starchy foods.
If you like rosemary you can add it to almost any savory dish. It pairs well with garlic and butter. Freeze a combination of the three in ice trays to pull from the freezer as needed for seasoning meats, fish, potatoes or anything else you can think of. Infusing rosemary into a culinary vinegar is another way to add it to your foods.
Using Rosemary for Healing
Adding herbs to food is the simplest way to maintain health or to begin healing. The healing properties of rosemary include antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antidepressant, carminative to name a few. It helps with circulation and it is a nervine stimulant that has a calming effect on digestion. Rosemary works on many systems of the body with these properties. Because of its ability to help with circulation, it is good for the heart. The carminative property helps with gas in the stomach and intestines. It’s a good herb for respiratory issues such as asthma or bronchitis and it can help clear the sinuses.
Studies are being done on the many properties of rosemary. As an herb for remembrance, I find it awesome that some of the studies are being done on its ability to affect memory and how it can assist with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. They have found that inhaling rosemary essential oil has cognitive benefits for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. They hope to see if rosemary can have a role in preventing or addressing Alzheimer’s in the future. Studies are also being done using rosemary for arthritic pain. So far inhalation doesn’t stop the pain felt but it does improve the experience. It’s also showing signs of reducing inflammation in the body. No matter the conclusion of these studies, it certainly won’t hurt if you start eating or smelling more rosemary. There have been no unwanted side effects or toxic amounts found when using rosemary. Some suggest inhaling rosemary while studying to enhance what you remember down the road. Smell it again before taking a test you’ve studied for to see if it brings back what you’ve studied.
Rosemary can be made into a tincture or an infused vinegar as I mentioned before, it also makes a wonderful addition to teas or infusions. Infusing it into an oil and then adding it to herbal salves is also another wonderful way to use rosemary topically. Because of its anti-inflammatory property, it is good for sore or strained muscles and the pain that comes with arthritis. Test it out on arthritic pain for yourself. Making a steam with rosemary can help during cold and flu season and clear sinuses or respiratory congestion. Because I often feel like my memory is cloudy and my mother has been feeling the same, I made us all rosemary essential oil inhalers for Christmas. 2018 is going to be an unforgettable year if all goes well!
What else can it do?
Rosemary is an all-around excellent herb, eat it, use it as medicine and of course add it to your beauty routine! Rosemary’s ability to improve circulation along with being a stimulating nervine makes it a wonderful herb for your scalp. By improving circulation to your scalp and stimulating your hair follicles it can enhance hair growth. It has also been used to darken hair, even those grays you’re trying to ignore. I have been using a vinegar wash with rosemary and sage, I have seen my hair darken but I have not seen the grays disappear, I’m also not very routine at it, nor am I a scientist so do your own testing to see what results you get. It really does add a nice herbal scent to your hair. If you like that sort of thing.
It’s also been said that the essential oil is more effective for hair growth and darkening so if you are really serious about your hair care routine, try an oil treatment with a few added drops of rosemary essential oil. It can also be added to homemade beard oils to help with facial hair growth.
This simple savory herb is relatively easy to grow, harvest and process and the benefits you’ll reap having her on hand are endless. Using it inside or out will brighten your day and enhance your wellness. The aroma alone is enough for me to want to use rosemary daily!