Rosemary Basics – Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary Basics

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis growing and using herbs

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary is a medicinal and culinary herb. It’s a wonderful addition to the herb garden. It also makes a great ornamental shrub when used in the landscape. It releases a distinctive piney aroma when brushed against making it an ideal component in a scent garden.

Description: Rosemary is a hardy perennial evergreen shrub. It has woody, scaly-barked branches covered with evergreen needles. It typically grows to be 5-6 ft. outdoors. Indoor specimens are generally smaller achieving a height of 2 to 4½ ft. Rosemary leaves resemble pine needles measuring ½ to1½ inches long. The leaves are narrow, thick and leathery in appearance. They are dark green on the top and lighter on the bottom with a white hairy appearance. Rosemary has a strong piney fragrance. Its fruit is very small and round.

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis growing and using herbs

Rosemary bears its flower clusters close to and along its branches.

Flowering: The pale blue flowers grow in clusters very close to the branch or stem. They are small, measuring about ½” long. Flowers generally appear from December through spring. Prostrate rosemarys can bloom almost continuously.

Range: Rosemary is very widely cultivated. It originated from the hills along the Mediterranean, Portugal, and Spain.

Growing Conditions: Rosemary is hardy in zones 8-10. It can be grown outdoors in climates where the temperatures do not drop below 10⁰F. Rosemary prefers a well-drained soil with a pH ranging between 6.5-7.0 . It prefers growing in full sun but will tolerate some shade.

How it is used/taken:  Rosemary is used fresh, dried and as an oil.

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis growing and using herbs

Rosemary is an attractive evergreen perennial.

Interesting facts:  Rosemary extract can be used as a natural preservative. In some instances it is more effective than BHA or BHT. The potent odor and bitter taste, however, have generally kept it from being used as a preservative. But Stephen Change, Ph.D. and Chi-tang Ho, Ph.D. of the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University have patented a bland extract. It was found to be very stable at higher temperatures making it ideal for use with fried foods.

In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying because they believed it would improve their memory.

Resources: Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, editors Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton

Photo Credits: All photos can be found in the MorgueFile.

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