Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

20171002_174445There are a few herbs that are routinely featured in Greek cuisine, and rosemary is one of them.  Often paired with garlic (of course!), it adds a distinct flavor to stews and meats.  I prefer to use it fresh, but if you have home-dried rosemary it works just as well.  I have not been as impressed with commercial dried rosemary, so if you have the space to grow your own it is well worth the effort.

A handy growing summary chart is at the end of the article.

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Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and grows well in other warmer climates.  It can tolerate fairly cold temperatures, but if you regularly dip down into the teens or lower, you may want to grow yours in a pot to be brought indoors.  It prefers full sun, but mine gets morning shade and doesn’t complain.  It is also a water-wise plant and actually prefers well-drained soil that doesn’t get soggy.

Rosemary blooms mostly in spring and flowers form on older stems.  Great for pollinators, too!

There are a few varieties of rosemary, but they all come in two basic forms: upright or trailing.  The one I have is an upright shrub, which tend to be more popular for culinary purposes.  I got mine as a cutting of a cutting of a cutting.  It all started with a plant my parents had at one home, then when we moved when I was a wee one they took a cutting and planted it at the new home.  Repeat a few times and now I have my own plant in my yard that is a descendant of that first plant going at least 40 years back.  It is likely Tuscan Blue since it matches the height and color description.

20171002_174403.jpgThe variety you get will determine its growth characteristics, as well as its flavor.  Tuscan Blue, which I believe is what I have, gets rather tall at about 5-6 feet and almost as wide.  Other varieties can be much smaller and better able to be grown in pots, however the big Tuscan Blue packs a very robust rosemary flavor that is not lost during the cooking process.  All rosemary can be used for cooking but larger plants have larger leaves with more flavor than smaller leaved plants.

Another benefit of having a larger variety is that the stems can be used as skewers for souvlaki, which is Greek shish kebob.  Strip the leaves off of a woodier stem, cut the thicker end of the stem at an angle to form a sharp point, and push it through your pieces of meat.  The stems will help add flavor to the inside of the meat as it cooks.  Use the handy search bar to find recipes that use rosemary.

Plant Summary:

  • Perrenial
  • Evergreen, but protect in cold weather
  • Flower Color: lavender
  • Height: up to 5-6 feet for upright varieties, 1-2 feet for trailing
  • Width: up to 4-5 feet for upright varieties, 3-4 feet or more for trailing
  • Sun: full sun, will tolerate some shade
  • Water: drought tolerant
  • Soil pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Soil type: tolerates various soils
  • Key nutrients: balanced
  • Planting time: early spring



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