The Veg Plot

Bunch of fives: rosemary

Sprig of rosemary

Rosemary is one of the friendliest herbs a gardener can wish to grow – when established it rocks on year after year with very little bother, providing the kitchen with its unique flavouring through all seasons. In fact it’s so unfussy that it can be easily taken for granted. As a reminder of it’s magic here are five fabulous insights to this sturdy garden staple.

A taste of booze
Rosemary’s unique herby bitterness comes to the fore when asked to accompany alcohol on a journey to the taste buds. We’ve used it to pep up martinis, have included it in a herby bouquet used to flavour mead, and add it to beer recipes – it goes especially well with coriander seed in our garden pale ale.

The Virgin Mary
It is said that the Virgin Mary spread her cloak over a rosemary bush while resting, turning the flowers from white to the blue of her cloak. This act of colour changing magic led to the plant being call the ‘rose of Mary’.

Miss Jessop
Although the Virgin Mary dyed her bush blue, there are numerous cultivars of rosemary with alternative petal colours including shades of pink and yellow. Other girls’ names are also popular among those who name cultivars and include ‘Wilma’s Gold’, ‘Irene’ and ‘Miss Jessop’s Upright’. Less attractive names include ‘Ken Taylor’.

Mosquito repellent
Many of us humans may enjoy a meal enhanced with rosemary’s savoury notes, but most of nature isn’t as enamoured. It suffers very few diseases or attacks from critters, the rosemary beetle aside, and can even be used as a mosquito repellent. Chuck a few twigs on the barbeque and watch them buzz off.

Thanks for the memory
Rosemary has long been associated with improved memory. Greek students used to tuck a few sprigs in their hair to help remember things during exams; it is a common feature of remembrance ceremonies around the world; and literary ace William Shakespeare noted its powers in Hamlet when Ophelia declares “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray, love, remember”. A few years ago, boffins at Newcastle University scientifically showed what ancient folk knew all along, claiming it can enhance long-term memory by 15%.


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