Frost hardy rosemary has as many uses in winter as it has in summer; a true all-rounder!
How easy it is to take rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) for granted. Once it is in the garden it is just there - doesn’t demand water, doesn’t over-grow everything, and doesn’t mind heat or cold.
Winter is a fine time to become reacquainted with this herb. It flavours succulent roasts, can be added to bathwater for a reviving soak, freshens the home, and is a tonic to dispel winter blues. Cut a sprig, inhale it deeply and you will discover its power.
Rosemary is a shrubby perennial herb that is frost hardy.
It does best in full sun, in light, rather than heavy soil, that drains well.
It is drought tolerant and disease free. Its aromatic foliage repels pests.
It is a good companion plant for carrots, and its flowers attract bees.
Both spreading and upright varieties can be grown as individual specimen plants, as medium high hedges or in containers.
When roasting chicken, lamb or pork lay a few sprigs on the bottom of the roasting pan. As you baste, the pan juices mixed with rosemary will give the meat a delicious flavour.
Also add a sprig or two to oven roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes or baby potatoes.
Quick tip: after boiling baby potatoes, squash them open, grind over coarse sea salt, add a sprig or two of rosemary, drizzle with olive oil and roast.
Make rosemary oil and rub it onto meat before roasting or grilling, trickle over vegetables, on pizza bases, and combine with wine vinegar in salad dressings.
• Pick 200 g fresh rosemary and let it dry. Lightly bruise the leaves and put into a sterilised bottle. Pour in 500ml oil, making sure the herb is completely covered.
• Seal the jar and put it on a windowsill or near a warm stove. Avoid a position that gets too hot or else the herbs will turn musty.
• Shake the jar at least once a day. Within two weeks, the oil should be ready. Taste the oil and if the flavour is not strong enough repeat the process with fresh herbs.
• If the flavour is strong enough, strain out the herbs or leave the sprigs in the bottle. In this case the oil will only last about 3 months.
Rosemary has an age-old reputation as an invigorating tonic herb that helps relieve mild depression and stress, especially after flu or other winter ailments.
Make your own tonic in the form of a rosemary tincture. Take 2 ml twice a day in water.
You will need fresh rosemary, vodka or apple cider vinegar, and a glass container with a lid.
Put 240 g finely chopped herb into a glass container. Pour in 500ml Vodka OR Apple Cider vinegar to completely cover the herbs and close the container tightly. Label the bottle (herb and date) and put it in a warm place, away from direct sunlight, for two weeks and shake it well every day.
After two weeks strain the mixture through a muslin cloth, and wring out all the liquid. Pour the tincture into a dark bottle, label it and keep in the cupboard.
Other rosemary remedies
• A rosemary infusion relieves headaches, because it stimulates the circulation of blood to the head. Take 50ml every three hours.
• A gargle of rosemary infusion relieves a sore throat because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
• As a tonic it helps recovery from chronic illness because it is thought to stimulate the adrenal glands.
Rosemary room freshener
In the Middle Ages rosemary was a strewing herb to mask household smells and keep insects away. A modern application of this is to make a strong infusion, add a cup of vinegar, a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and use as a floor and surface cleaner. Hang up bunches of fresh rosemary and rub fresh leaves over counter tops, tables, and windowsills.
4 traditional uses you probably didn’t know
• Lay among books to keep moths at bay.
• Leaves under the bed prevent nightmares.
• Planted at the front door, it protects those inside from evil.
• It was grown at law courts for the protection and enjoyment of the judge (and to help his memory and concentration).
Herb project: Rosemary bath smoothie
A long, soaking bath is one of the rituals of winter. A strong infusion of rosemary added to the bathwater revives the body, especially easing tired and aching muscles.
Take the pampering one step further by making a bath smoothie.
You will need: rosemary, coarse sea salt, and oil (grape seed, olive or avocado oil).
Step 1: Pick fresh rosemary, strip the leaves from the stems and place it in a blender. Add 2 cups of water, or more if needed.
Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of coarse Sea Salt, add 2 tablespoons of oil and blend together.
Step 3: After blending, strain or squeeze it through a cloth, into a glass container that can be sealed.
Step 4: Don’t discard the mixture in the cloth. Tie the corners together with a piece of string and hang it under the hot water tap while running the bath.
Step 5. Add the strained mixture to the bathwater when needed.
• For more information on the herbs in this article visit Healthy Living Herbs, www.healthyliving-herbs.co.za.