Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that has been used since ancient times as a plague and pest repellent, an odorant and for medicinal uses because of its strong aroma and antiseptic qualities.
Modern day gardeners’ treasure rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), as it is one of the handiest garden plants around, most welcome in both the ornamental and vegetable garden, and even as a hassle-free container plant. It is easy to grow in well-drained, composted soil, loves sun and heat, is very water wise and even fairly frost resistant. The plants are evergreen, thus allowing you access to the aromatic foliage all year long to use in cooking, cosmetic products and medicines. They start flowering in early summer and keep this up until late autumn. We also have access to different varieties, from upright to trailing, and if you are not partial to blue flowers you can go for pink with Rosmarinus ‘Major Pink’ or white, with Rosmarinus ‘Miss Jessop’s Upright’.
You can plant rosemary close to beans, carrots and cabbages, as it protects them from many traditional pests. Snails and slugs are also not happy with its presence.
Household uses for rosemary:
- Use sprigs of fresh rosemary when roasting a leg of lamb or chicken to infuse with a wonderful flavour.
- Use chopped rosemary leaves in salads and the dainty little flowers in home-made cool drinks – do not overdo it as the flavour is quite strong!
- The upright variety Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’ is not only suitable as a hedge, but also produces straight stems that can be used as sticks to make kebabs (sosaties), imparting a wonderful flavour when on the braai.
- Throw some rosemary branches (regular pruning of rosemary plants is beneficial!) on the braai coals or even on an indoor fire to enjoy the fresh aroma. This is said to keep mosquitoes away too.
- Use sprigs of rosemary in little flower bouquets (also called tussie-mussies) indoors to deodorise your home.
- Rosemary was once called a ‘strewing’ herb and thrown on the floor to be walked on, thus releasing the antiseptic fragrances and oils. It is also the ‘remembrance’ herb, traditionally used at weddings, funerals and christenings. So if you are a sentimental soul, throw some rosemary branches around when planning a romantic occasion such as a wedding – the words ‘luck’ and ‘fidelity’ are also attached to the herb and you will be dancing in a scented cloud!
- If you are stressed and need a pick-me-up, brew a herbal tea of a short sprig of rosemary steeped in a cup of boiling water. Add a little honey to sweeten.
- After a tiring day, boil 150g of each of the following herbs in 3 litres of water: lavender, rosemary and mint. Let it steep for a while, strain through a sieve and add to your bath water.
- Boil the potatoes in water until they are just beginning to soften on the outside.
- Drain and shake the pot to break the surface of the potatoes a bit. Sprinkle them with a handful of fresh rosemary leaves and some coarse sea salt.
- In the meantime, pour a layer of olive oil into a roasting dish and place in a preheated oven at 190°C, but not to boiling point.
- Gently dish the half-cooked potatoes into the roasting dish and turn them until they are covered in hot oil.
- Roast them until they are a nice golden brown colour, crisp and cooked through.
Tip: Roast the potatoes for quite a while before turning them, or they will break up and stick to the roasting dish. Be patient – the whole process takes close to an hour!