Rosemary Herb Information

Herb: Rosemary

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a culinary herb used to flavor meats and vegetables.

Rosemary has narrow, leathery leaves about an inch long and without stems. Leaves are usually shiny and dark green above and gray to whitish underneath. Stems become quite woody with age. As a native to the Mediterranean, rosemary grows as an evergreen, perennial shrub in warm locations. Rosemary is typically planted each year in the Northeastern U.S. because it does not over-winter without exceptional care. Certain varieties grow very close to the ground and other varieties grow up to 5 feet tall if not regularly pruned. Rosemary flowers in summer and the blossoms vary from light blue to dark blue to dark purple, depending on the variety.

Rosemary Characteristics

  • perennial
  • reaches to 5 feet tall in warm, sunny climates, shorter in northern climates
  • evergreen leaves are leathery
  • pointed, linear leaves
  • aromatic leaves are dark green above and whitish below
  • tubular flowers may be purple, blue, pink or white
  • cultivated in gardens for culinary uses

Rosemary Uses

  • culinary
  • gardening

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Growing Rosemary

Growing conditions: Rosemary will grow well in a sunny, sheltered location. In mild climates rosemary grows as a hardy shrub, but not so in cold climates. Rosemary will die if not protected from freezing temperatures. Rosemary needs a well-drained soil and may benefit from lime additions.

Light: sun

Height: 60 inches

Spacing: 12 inches

Planting comments: Rosemary is propagated in several ways. Start seeds indoors to have transplants for an earlier garden harvest or sow the seeds directly in drills placed about a foot apart. Cuttings can be placed directly and deeply in the soil and rooting should occur. Long stems of an established plant can be weighted down to the ground and rooting will occur at that spot on the stem.

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Rosemary Images

Where to Buy Rosemary

Rosemary is available as seeds or plants. Depending on the time of year you may be able to find a plant at your nearby garden center. In case they’re are not available locally, here are some places that offer herb seeds and herb plants.

In case you can’t find what you’re looking for commercially, take a look at some of the online seed swap sites where you can find many unusual plants and common ones, too.

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Chef’s Article: Rosemary An Evergreen Herb for Seasoning Meats

by Naomi Gallagher

Rosemary is a perennial herb of Mediterranean origin, Rosmarinus officinalis, and a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is grown for its resinous aroma and flavor that is used to season a number of foods. Rosemary is cultivated in herbal gardens in the United States and Europe.

The rosemary plant is a small, evergreen shrub that is a tender perennial. It needs full sun and grows better in warmer locations. Southern-grown plants may attain a height of five to six feet, but northern-grown plants may only grow a foot tall. Full sun is one key to growing rosemary successfully.

The base of the plant is woody, but it does require some protection from winds and the freezing weather of winter. Site selection is therefore important in growing rosemary, especially in northern locations. The southern side of a wall or building seems perfect as there would be some wind protection and extra warmth from sunshine reflecting from the structure.

Rosemary is propagated via stem cuttings as the seeds are slow to germinate. Plants can be saved from harsh winter weather in a cool sunny spot in a pot indoors. In nature rosemary grows in areas near the sea where the only water it gets to survive is from the sea mist. In fact the name rosemary translated from the original Latin means ‘dew of the sea’. In order to overwinter it successfully indoors mimic its natural habitat by keeping the foliage misted with a spray of water.

The leather-like leaves of rosemary are used as an herb to flavor savory foods. The narrow leaves measure about an inch long and come to a point at the tips. The leaves may be used whole or chopped, fresh or dried. Sometimes a whole sprig of rosemary is added to the dish to be seasoned and then removed before serving. The aroma is fragrant and somewhat spicy. The taste is warm, resinous, slightly bitter and with notes of pine. Rosemary goes well with meat dishes, poultry, lamb, pork, vegetable dishes, potatoes, beans, dressings, cream soups, bean soups and stuffings.

Rosemary flakes, or dried chopped leaves, are available in spice jars on grocer spice shelves. Fresh herb will have a better, stronger aroma and flavor, so cutting a few leaves from a garden plant is preferred over using dry herb from a jar.

Oil of rosemary is used to add scent to toiletry products like soaps and shampoos. It’s also used in the making of vermouth, a wine-based drink flavored with many herbs. The essential oil content of rosemary is 0.3 to 2% and it contains borneol, carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid and camphor. Some of these compounds may give rosemary its antioxidant, antibacterial, diuretic and anti-mutagenic properties.

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