An old European herb most commonly associated with Mediterranean cooking, rosemary is one of the great culinary plants for the garden. It also doubles as an ornamental with its needle-like foliage, ridged stems, and pale lavender flowers that appear in late winter or spring. Technically a medium-sized woody shrub, it’s native to the chaparral lands of southern Europe and North Africa where growing conditions are somewhat arid and the ground porous and well-drained. It’s also adapted to the seaside where it withstands high wind and salt spray.
Throughout the year dark to gray green needle-like leaves densely line the woody stems of rosemary. Plants grown in moister climates have flatter broader greener leaves, and those grown in more arid climates have grayer, more slender leaves that curl under giving them a needle-like appearance. They are potently fragrant from afar offering a piney, minty scent. In mid-spring to early summer, small but appealing edible two-lipped flowers of lavender blue or white appear. These attract bees and small inconspicuous nutlet fruits follow.
Rosemary will prosper in locations with full sun and sharply drained average to poor soil. Established plants are quite drought tolerant, but newly planted specimens require average water until they set roots. Rosemary leaves and stems can be harvested any time of year. Refrain from hard pruning in spring until new growth appears. The leaves are traditionally used to flavor vegetables, pasta sauces and meat, particularly pork, lamb and chicken.
There are many cultivars of this versatile drought tolerant plant, including the tall ‘Tuscan Blue’, which has broader, lighter green leaves, and the creeping, less hardy ‘Prostratus.’ This is an ideal shrub for containers or seaside locations where growing conditions are challenging for many other herbs and garden plants. In warmer climes rosemary can be grown and sheared as a fragrant hedge or topiary. Plants may develop root and stem rot if grown in poorly drained soil or areas with consistently humid summers.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Annual – Edible
White, Blue, Lavender
Green, Gray Green, Dark Green
Snip fresh rosemary stems throughout the growing season. To use rosemary, strip needles from stems and chop before adding to dishes. To store fresh rosemary up to one week in the refrigerator, place stems in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.
To preserve, air-dry stems by bundling and hanging upside down in a dark place with good air circulation. Remove leaves from stems and store in airtight containers. Dried, whole rosemary retains flavor up to one year. You can also freeze whole stems in a plastic bag. To use, strip as many leaves as you need from frozen stems. Chop rosemary well before using.
Pulverize dry leaves before adding to dishes, herb blends, or sauces to release aromatic oils and to make them easier to chew. Rosemary texture and flavor varies throughout the season. Leaves are tender in spring, with fewer aromatic oils. By late summer, foliage packs a more potent flavor. Toss late summer stems onto grilling coals to infuse meat with delicious flavor.
Harvest rosemary flowers for a delicious addition to lettuce or fruit salads, pasta, or rice creations.