A plant that features in so many gardens and often we are not sure how to use it. It grows as a woody shrub that has small, needle-like leaves with a resinous flavour. It is often used for seasoning meats such as mutton and beef as well as roast vegetables as it helps the digestive system to process the fattier meats.
This herb is hardy and survives even the Free State winter frosts and its summer heat. It grows well in the garden or a large pot as long as it is in well-drained soil and gets full sun. To prevent it from becoming too woody, it helps to occasionally cut it back and new growth will soon emerge. Small blue flowers appear towards the end of winter and early spring making it one of the season’s first sources of pollen for the bees. The shrubs reach a height of between 1m and 1.5m and are best planted with some sage bushes as they prefer the same well-drained soil and are great plant companions.
There are so many uses for Rosemary – not just culinary. It has antiseptic properties and is therefore a key ingredient in Andrea’s Herbs Antiseptic Ointment and Andrea’s Herbs Eczema Ointment. A tea made from Rosemary can help a migraine or tension headache. You can make a tea by placing about a teaspoon of the leaves (fresh) or half a teaspoon (dried) leaves to a cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes, strain out the leaves and sip the tea.
Recently, I combined Rosemary with Eucalyptus (Bluegum) and made a decoction (a decoction is made by boiling the harder botanicals to extract their active ingredients) and used it as an antiseptic spray and surface disinfectant. I found it to be extremely efficient when sprayed as a natural air-freshener. Next time I would like to add some pine to the mix.
Another great way to use Rosemary is to place a few twigs directly onto the coals when preparing meat on a fire. The meat will be very gently smoked with the flavour.
If you do not enjoy the sensation of having whole Rosemary leaves in your mouth when eating a roast or some roasted vegetables, try using the dried leaves by grinding them up in a pestle and mortar together with a little Himalayan salt before sprinkling it onto the dish. Fresh leaves can be ground up in the same way - try adding a clove of garlic and a little olive oil and using the paste to coat your meat or vegetables. The smell alone is heavenly!
It is very easy to dry Rosemary for storage - simply strip the leaves off the stem and allow them to dry on some newspaper for a few days, but be sure to place them out of direct sunlight. Then store them in an airtight dark container or just bag them in a brown paper bag. Just remember to mark the container as to its contents and when it was harvested. And don't discard the stems. Dry them too and use them as skewers for some meat or mushrooms and prepare them on the coals!