Notes from Herb Heaven

Rosemary

The smell of this wonderful herb is one of the very good reasons to grow this Mediterranean plant. As old as history itself, it is still one of the most popular herbs in the kitchen. Lamb with rosemary is a favourite classic in many homes. A myth exists that the Virgin Mary hid behind a bush of rosemary on route to Egypt and that the bush produced beautiful blue flowers in her honour. It was burnt at shrines in ancient Greece to drive away evil spirits, and is said to rid a place of negativity because of its cleansing vibrations. “Rosemary for remembrance”.

Scientists at the University of Cincinnati found the scent of rosemary to be an effective memory stimulant, so this could be a good potted plant for the children’s desks during study time! The scent of the needle-like leaves of rosemary have been described as a combination of nutmeg, pine needles, ginger and lavender. In the spring, small-lobed flowers appear among the leaves. These range from pale blue to a pinkish hue. Rosemary grows best in warm, dryish climates but will tolerate most areas and does very well in a container. Make sure the pot is big enough, as it has a large root system. The best position for rosemary is in full sun, although it does grow reasonably well in dappled shade in hot areas. It requires a well-drained, alkaline, sandy soil and does not like to have its roots waterlogged. If the soil is too acid, add about 200g lime per square metre before planting.

Rosemary does not require fertililsing. Propagate by cuttings as the seed takes a long time to germinate. Trim the lower and upper leaves of a cutting of about 10 cm and place in moist, sandy soil until it has taken root. Plant out where it is to grow, as it does not like being moved. Prune after the flowers have faded. Rosemary forms a beautifully dense bush when given regular “haircuts”, and makes a wonderful hedge round a herb garden. As it likes to be on the dry side, do not over water. Rosemary and sage grow well together and it is a good companion for cabbage, beans and carrot. It helps to repel carrot flies, bean beetles and cabbage moth. Medicinally, rosemary is a good digestive and can help to relieve menstrual cramps as it helps to relax muscles. Use the leaves in a tea – one teaspoon of dried crushed leaves or a fresh sprig to one cup of boiling water steeped for five minutes and strained. Honey can be added if desired. Do not use for more than four days at a time.

It is a good tonic for convalescents and is used to regulate high and low blood pressure and to calm the nerves. Rosemary has been found to be good for liver ailments, gallstones, migraines, rheumatism and gout. Pregnant women are advised not to use the herb for medicinal reasons, but they can use it in cooking. The dried leaves are lovely in a potpourri, and sachets of rosemary can be used to scent clothes and linen and to deter moths. In the kitchen, rosemary is a classic with lamb. Stuff little sprigs of rosemary into slits made in a leg of lamb for roasting. Combined with garlic, this is an awesome flavour combination. Use the chopped leaves in soups and stews, fish and rice. Do not use too much, as it can be over-powering.


Rosemary Potato Pie

800g potatoes
400g onions, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp chopped rosemary, fresh
75g butter
150ml milk

 Layer potatoes and onions in an 
ovenproof dish. Sprinkle each layer
with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary 
and dot with small pieces of butter. 

Finish with a layer of potatoes. 

Pour the milk over, cover and cook at 190°C 
for one and a half hours, removing the 
lid for the last half hour to 
brown the potatoes. (Serves 4 – 6)

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