Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis; Labiatae)

Description

An evergreen shrub, hardy except in severe weather and wet soils, to about 4 ft (120 cm) in gardens by about 5 ft (145 cm). Very narrow, dark green leaves 1 in. (2½ cm) long, and pale purple flowers in May. Origin, southern Europe and Asia Minor, probably introduced in the Middle Ages.

Uses

The leaves are pungently and pleasantly aromatic, giving a distinctive flavour in cooking; the oil contained in them is similar to eucalyptus. Rosemary is said to have an invigorating effect, and helps in restoring energy. It can also be used to improve the condition of skin and hair.

History

The name comes from the Latin ros dew, and maris the sea – it grows naturally near the sea. Greek students twined it in their hair to help them think at examinations, and it was used in Greece at weddings, christenings and

funerals. It was thought to be a disinfectant, even against the Plague.

Cultivation

Plant in a sunny place and well-drained soil in spring; regular use will do all the pruning necessary. Easily increased from tip cuttings taken in March, putting four in a 4-in. (10 cm) pot in a frame or greehouse. Later cuttings in August are also possible.

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