Herbal Academy: Rosemary

Rosemary, while originally from the Mediterranean region, is a staple in herb gardens around the world. Thanks to the potent fragrance and flavor of its needle-like leaves, rosemary is often used in the kitchen to season meats, soups, sauces, stews, mashed potatoes, olive oil, bread, and a whole lot more. It’s also a common element in aromatherapy where it’s used to improve memory and alertness. The addition of rosemary leaves and rosemary essential oil to soaps, sachets, and homemade cleaning products is a wonderful way to simply enjoy the earthy aromatics of this woody perennial. Here’s a quick look at how to successfully grow rosemary and use it around the home.

Growing Rosemary

While rosemary thrives outdoors throughout the seasons in USDA zones 8 to 10, it’s also easy to grow in colder climates as long as you are prepared to provide winter protection or bring the plant indoors during the winter months.

Rosemary can be planted outdoors in the spring after the threat of frost has passed, and then it can be potted and taken indoors before the ground starts to freeze in the winter. In some moderately cold climates, rosemary will survive the winter if you plant it in a protected area and use mulch. Rosemary can also be grown in a container all year long, which makes it very simple to keep near your kitchen at all times and to switch locations, as needed, with ease.

The two most important requirements for growing rosemary, whether it’s in your herb garden or a patio container, are abundant sunshine and excellent drainage. The nice thing about rosemary is that it’s drought-tolerant and prefers rocky or sandy soil, so it’s easy to take care of, even if you’re someone who forgets to water your plants from time to time. What you have to watch out for is watering too much. Too much water can cause root rot and promote fungal diseases.

Growing rosemary requires:

Full sun

Well-drained soil (prefers rocky, sandy soil)

Soil pH of 6 to 7 (slightly acidic to neutral)

Winter protection in USDA Zones 1 through 7

If you’re growing your rosemary in a pot, it will need to be watered regularly, but the soil should be allowed to dry out completely between watering. The rule of thumb that I use when my rosemary is indoors is to water it half as much as I water my other house plants. Typically, that means I water my potted rosemary once every two weeks, keeping an eye on the soil moisture and plant health when I do my weekly houseplant watering. How often you’ll need to water your rosemary will depend on several factors, including humidity, so you may require a different watering schedule than the one I follow. The main takeaway is that rosemary doesn’t do well if it sits in water.

To prevent root rot and fungal diseases in rosemary, be sure to provide good drainage and let the soil dry out before watering it again.

If you plant your rosemary in the ground, be sure to give each plant 2 to 3 feet of space to promote good air circulation.

Harvesting Rosemary

You can cut rosemary from an established plant at any time with a sharp pair of gardening shears or kitchen scissors. It is best to cut the tender growth and avoid cutting the woody lower branches. If you worry about taking too much from the plant, like I often do, a good rule is to take no more than a third of the plant when you harvest.

Preserving Rosemary

Fresh rosemary is delicious for seasoning meat and using in a wide variety of recipes, but rosemary is also an herb that gives foods savory flavor when used as a dried seasoning. To dry rosemary, you can simply hang it upside down in a bunch. Using a dehydrator also works well, especially if you want to dry large quantities of herbs. Once the rosemary is completely dry, you strip the needle-like leaves from the stems. Then, you store the leaves in an airtight spice jar or other container.

If you want to preserve your rosemary in its fresh form, the simplest way is to freeze it, either as whole sprigs or by taking the fresh leaves off of the stem and freezing them in water in an ice cube tray. The rosemary-filled ice cubes can then be transferred to a freezer bag for long-term storage.

Cooking with Rosemary

There’s no denying that rosemary is one of the more potent herbs. For that reason, you’ll often see people advising to lightly season foods with it. But, it’s really a matter of taste. Rosemary goes well with foods that are rich in flavor, like meat and goat cheese, as they can hold their own against the powerful rosemary taste. Lamb and rosemary is probably one of the most well-known pairings. Rosemary is also delicious when it’s showcased as the main attraction, such as when it’s used in savory artisan bread or to flavor olive oil destined for bread dipping. In our house, we like to use it in everyday meals as well. Because we grow our rosemary and have it available to use every day, it often goes on things as simple as hamburgers. Take a look at these 40 rosemary recipes for inspiration (and to see just how versatile rosemary really is).

Cleaning with Rosemary

Rosemary is a great addition to homemade multipurpose cleaners, bar soaps, dishwashing liquids, and room fragrances, not only because it smells earthy and wonderful, but because it has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It’s an herb that can help you clean your home naturally without the use of store-bought cleaners that may use petroleum-based surfactants and other toxic chemicals.

Healthy Living with Rosemary

In addition to antifungal and antimicrobial properties, rosemary is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidants. It’s thought to aid in digestion, reduce cortisol levels and feelings of stress, promote concentration, and relieve pain. Used as herbal medicine for centuries, modern-day studies are beginning to back up some, not all, but some, of the traditional health claims. Like with many other herbs, it can add to a healthy lifestyle, but it’s not a cure-all. It sure does smell good and taste good, though, doesn’t it? If nothing else, if you love the scent and enjoy the flavor of rosemary, it’s one more thing that adds a bit of joy to life.

Is rosemary your favorite herb, or do you prefer another? Let me know in the comments section below.

This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All reviews of products are my own opinion. I am not paid in any other form to write reviews. 

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