The Simple Things
The Herbery Growing rosemary
THIS MONTH IN OUR NEW SERIES: LIA LEENDERTZ PICKS SHOOTS FROM THIS HOME- GROWN MEDITERRANEAN HERB AND REVEALS ITS DELICIOUSNESS IN DISHES BOTH SAVOURY AND SWEET
Rosemary is a savoury and strident herb that can also work in sweet dishes. Its Latin name,
Rosmarinus, means ‘dew of the sea’, perhaps because its wild Mediterranean habitat is often on craggy sea cliffs. An alternative story for the origin of the name is that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a white flowered bush, turning all of the flowers blue, and from then on it was known as ‘the rose of Mary’. It has long been associated with weddings and woven into bridal wreaths, but is also known as a herb of remembrance.
In winter it produces blue-lilac flowers, which taste like a gentler and sweeter version of the leaf, and a smattering of these hang on into early spring: sprinkle them over ice-cream and other desserts.
The nice thing about rosemary is that it is so dependable. Once established, you’ll have an evergreen, shrubby bush with beautiful spires of foliage that can be picked throughout the year. If you are short on space, look for compact or trailing varieties that like being in pots, such as ‘Severn Sea’. It’s an easy plant to take cuttings from, too
It’s easy to take cuttings to make plants to give to friends. Make the cuttings a few inches long and ideally all this season’s growth (stems that are more pliable, less woody), then strip the leaves from the bottom two thirds of the cutting. Take a terracotta pot full of gritty compost and make a hole close to the edge, drop the cutting into it then firm around with compost. You can fit five cuttings into a small pot. Water, then cover the top of the pot with a clear plastic bag and secure with an elastic band. Place on a bright, but not sunny, windowsill. Remove the bag occasionally to look for signs that the cuttings have taken. It can be removed completely as soon as new growth is produced.