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Herb of remembrance
SoVaNow.com / February 06, 2014Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, a member of the mint family, thrives in mild, sunny regions as in the desert-like conditions of the Middle East. Herb of legend and of Christmas, rosemary is the herbal symbol of love, loyalty, and remembrance.
Rosemary, Rose of the Sea, Dew-of-the-Sea and Rose of Mary, is not mentioned specifically in the Bible but is a plant of ancient lineage. Precious oils were used to anoint and heal the sick and are mentioned 188 times in the bible.
Biblical lore claims that a rosemary plant will never grow higher than six feet so as not to stand taller than Christ. Another legend explains that the flowers were originally white, but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a rosemary shrub while fleeing from Herod’s soldiers with the baby Jesus.
Rosemary has a reputation for strengthening the memory, perhaps because of its strong, stimulating fragrance. As a result, it was used in weddings, in bridal bouquets and worn in the bride’s hair as a symbol of remembrance. At funerals, rosemary was buried with the dead to signify that they would not be forgotten.
Rosemary has many historical uses.
The aromatic branches were burned as a disinfectant to prevent disease. Different preparations of the plant were used for toothache, headache, gout, coughs and even baldness.
The oil of rosemary, in a diluted form, is used by pharmacologists as a tonic and digestive aid. There is some evidence that the plant is effective in controlling muscle spasms.
Used to improve memory and to lift the spirits, it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. The potent fragrance will invigorate the senses.
Rosemary is a shrubby, semi-hardy, evergreen perennial. It can grow 3 – 6 feet tall with spreading, woody stems and needle-like leaves. The foliage is dark green to gray green and has a strong, piney fragrance. Lavender pink to blue blossoms cover the plant in spring or even during mild winters. Frost hardy varieties include Salem, ARP and Hill Hardy. Prostrate varieties are less hardy. Like other Mediterranean herbs, rosemary requires full sun and sharp drainage. Sandy or gravelly soil ensures good drainage. Rosemary is well-suited to rock gardens, raised beds and containers. It can be propagated by mid-summer cuttings.
Rosemary leaves can be used fresh or dried. It is most aromatic in July and August, so best picked then for drying. The flowers can also be used.
Harvest year-round or after flowering to promote full growth, but don’t cut back into old wood. Cut stems of rosemary and use as skewers for potatoes or grilled meat to impart its wonderful flavor.
Chop the fresh or dried leaves and use in a dry rub for meats. Use sparingly in baked goods. Spice up tea or lemonade with fresh leaves or flowers.
Grilled Herb Burgers
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Combine ground beef with all of the above or your choice of herbs. Shape into four patties. Grill, covered, over medium-high heat for 5 – 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Serve with fresh from the garden tomato slices on crusty rolls.
Special Thought: Rosemary is the herb of remembrance. Reflect on someone in your past who was influential in your life. Pick up the phone and let them know you remember how they helped you.
The Southside Virginia Herb Society is a group of local enthusiasts interested in learning and sharing knowledge of gardening, crafting and cooking with herbs.
Members come from Halifax, Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties.
We meet on the third Saturday of the month. On May 3, we will be participating in Flora Fest with the Charlotte County Master Gardeners by offering a herb plant sale and an herbal luncheon with a French theme.
Caption for picture: It is believed that Rosemary flowers were once white but turned blue when Mary threw her coat on the bush while fleeing with the Baby Jesus from Herod’s soldiers.
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