Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) is an evergreen shrub with fragrant foliage. Needle like leaves grow on woody stems and small flowers are either pink, purple or blue. Rosemary is a versatile plant being both ornamental and edible. It’s native to the Mediterranean but it’s so adaptable it can live almost anywhere. Plants are durable and drought resistant. There is a large specimen planted next to the black fence on the north side of our perennial department. It’s been there for longer than most of our staff members and survives and thrives through all of our crazy North Carolina weather. It gets whacked with hoses and carts yet each year it shines on, unscathed.
Rosemary will be happiest in a sunny location with well-draining soil. They dislike wet feet and prefer to dry out in between waterings. There are upright varieties ideal for mixed beds, containers or screening and trailing varieties for borders and container ‘spillers’. Either variety works well for the herb garden. Upright varieties can reach up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide un-trimmed but they can be pruned into almost any shape. Rosemary topiaries are a useful and popular gift, especially around the holidays! They are both decorative and functional.
Cooking with Rosemary
Rosemary leaves are used in flavoring foods, namely lamb, turkey, chicken, pork and fish. It also works well on roasted potatoes, breads, with cheese, and try adding a sprig to beef stew while it cooks (remove before serving). There are even fruit and dessert recipes that incorporate rosemary.
Rosemary infused oils are a popular choice for cooking. You buy some at the store or make your own by steeping sprigs in a bottle of olive oil. You can also dry your own rosemary but no need. In our climate with just one plant, you’ll likely have more than enough all year long.
New rosemary cultivars are particularly sturdy and upright, making them ideal as a barbecue skewer. Also use twigs as toothpicks. A tray of appetizer bites secured with rosemary, each with a few green sprigs sticking out, makes for a very pretty display.
Whether you are looking for a new herb to cook with, a different texture to add to your container garden, or you’re looking for a dense plant to hide something unsightly in your yard, rosemary will fit the bill.