Rosemary rosmarinus officinalis – growing, medicinal, sowing, cuttings

Rosemary - Rosmarinus OfficinalisRosemary is an aromatic herb from the libiatae (mint) family and is a gardeners friend as it is known to be a natural insect replant. If left unchecked it can grow to over 2m (6.6ft) tall, regular picking and pruning will keep your plant more manageable. It has needle like grey\green leaves and its flowers are small and pale blue/pink in colour. There are several decorative variegated types, but none are as hardy as the ordinary green rosemary.

Sowing

Growing direct from seed is not the easiest when it comes to rosemary. Start indoors in a dark room, as this will aid germination, covering a liberal amount of the seeds lightly (with compost) after sowing. The optimum soil temperature should be around 15c (60f). Although rosemary can take up to 3 months before germination you should start to see some results in about 2-3 weeks. When you have shoot that are around 20cm (4inches) high they may be planted out.

Cuttings

Rosemary can also be successfully grown from cuttings. The ideal soil mix uses grit, compost and peat. We try not use peat, as most will come from beautiful landscapes and gardeners unbeknown to them are slowly using the peat from non-renewable sources. I used just normal compost for mine and they appear to be growing well. I took a good cutting of about 5cm (2 inches) long off my plant. Took off the bottom leaves and cut diagonally across the stem. Planted it and I water it when it looks a bit dry.

It is an idea also to use a hormone rooting powder if you chip willow wood down and soak it in water (you get willow water ). The willow water is stated to be rich in giberellins, but after research I have found it is actually rich in auxins , which are plant hormones and used to assist in rooting of cuttings…………so there is a rooting powder alternative which is organic! (thanks to Nev Sweeney for this advice) You can find a recipe to make your own in our book – The Selfsufficeintish Bible, get it from your libarary or by visiting this link.

Here’s a pic of how one of my cuttings is getting on (yes it is very early days yet).

Planting out

Despite giving you the information on growing from seed I highly recommend that you should buy your rosemary as a one year old plant. Look at the bottom of the pot when purchasing and ensure there is not too much root leakage, also check the leaves for pests and general vigour. A tired looking plant is just a waste of money. However, if you have the patience then it is possible to nurture it back to health.

Rosemary prefers well drained soil, in a sunny, sheltered spot. Unless you live in a climate that suffers from very cold winters there is not much more you need to do to keep a healthy rosemary plant. I water mine with an organic seaweed feed once a fortnight and give it a watering in dry spells, but that’s it. Frosts and icy winds may kill off some of the shoots but new growths should appear from the base.

Container Growing

45cm (16 in) deep and 40cm (17 in) wide container. Plant it facing the sun and give winter protection during the colder months and give it a liquid feed during the spring, summer and early autumn(fall). Ideally it should be grown in ‘gritty’ compost but it is a pretty hardy plant that will put up with all sorts of neglect.

Rosemary can be ‘trained’ to grow into pretty much any shape that you see fit. Some even use Rosemary as replacement christmas tree.

It is an idea to grow a little rosemary in your container garden as it will attract bees that will pollinate the other plants.

In Cold winters

If you do live in an area that suffers from very cold winters, temperatures -15c (10f), then you should consider bringing your plant indoors. You will need a very large container so it has room to grow and be careful to not damage the roots when digging up. Use a good compost but don’t keep it too moist as this will contribute to root rot. When indoors spray the leaves every now and again. It is not recommended that you do bring your plant indoors unless you are certain the temperature will drop to -15c, a healthy rosemary plant will not enjoy being transplanted from its natural spot.

Rosemary in the kitchen

Traditionally rosemary is used to flavour meats such as, pork, lamb and veal use sparingly as it will overpower the taste and put some in before roasting and remove after.

A few sprigs of rosemary added to the tea pot makes a delicious drink, don’t use milk and try with a bit of honey.

Chicken Van Dam

3 chicken breasts
15g (half ounce) butter
220g (8 oz) cream cheese
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary.

Put the breasts in a baking dish.

Melt the butter and saute the garlic a bit; stir in cream cheese and rosemary.

Pour cheese mixture over the chicken and bake until chicken for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Medicinal

Can be used as a disinfectant, for headaches, fever, as a mouth wash and for rheumatism.

Externally it can be used in hair lotions a few drops of Rosemary oil massaged into the scalp then rinsed with an infusion of nettles can revitalise the hair. Used in this manner it supposed to prevent premature baldness. Rosemary is also supposed to stop dandruff.

Hungary water was first invented for a Queen of Hungry to ‘renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs’. It was used externally and is prepared by mixing 680g (1.5 lbs) of fresh rosemary tops in full flower into 3.75 liters (1gallon) of spirits of wine. Leave to stand for four days then distill. It is also supposed to work as a remedy against gout if rubbed vigorously on hands and feet.

For a tonic against headaches put some sprigs into a teapot add hot water strain and serve.

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