The Wonders of Rosemary
Out of all the herbs you could grow, rosemary is one of the easiest and most versatile. You don't even have to start it from seed - just buy a potted plant version from the herb section of the supermarket, look after it well in your garden and pot it up as it gets bigger until it gets strong and sturdy and you can then plant it out into your garden where the roots won't get too soggy and it won't be too exposed to heavy frosts. It is drought tolerant and gets more woody as it grows, which makes it quite a tough plant.
We've had rosemary growing in our garden for several years now and, being an evergreen, its of use to us all year round it. The potent oil from this plant has been used for centuries due to its health giving properties.
Its reputed ability to ease indigestion may be why it makes a good partner to fatty meats, but as a week-end treat when the weather is cold, I put a couple of sprigs onto a tray of chunky chopped vegetables, drizzled with olive oil to roast in the oven - the smell that fills the house is wonderful.
Historically, it is a symbol of remembrance, and Nigella Lawson has an interesting recipe here for a Rosemary Remembrance Cake
It also has antibacterial properties and may help ease breathing, so a rosemary-infused steam inhalation is good for winter coughs and colds. It is also supposed to be good for soothing aches and pains so running a hot tap over fresh sprigs makes a great reviving bath and, again, the steam will help disperse the uplifting smell around the house.
I run my hands along the twigs to release the little leaves and sprinkle them in the chicken house - on their nest and roosting area, to take advantage of the insect repelling properties. For the house, candles made with rosemary oil will help keep the insects at bay in the summer.
From a beauty point of view, rosemary is thought to help stimulate hair growth and, if you can bear it, you should try running a cold infusion through your hair and massaging into your scalp after shampooing. This also works well as a final hair rinse and will add extra body and shine. It can also be applied dry to the hair by adding a few drops onto a hairbrush (this should also help repel head lice).
Due to its stimulating effects, it is also said to be a good memory booster and Greek students would braid rosemary into their hair to help them when taking exams. I tried the Rosemary Wine memory booster last winter (from my James Wong Grow Your Own Drugs book) which involved bruising a few sprigs of rosemary and placing them in a bottle of good quality red wine, leaving to infuse by re-corking and shaking daily for 2 weeks. After that, you should drink a small wine glass daily after dinner. Well, it tasted a little unusual at first but I soon found I acquired the taste for it. I didn't keep up with it though, so this winter I'm going to give it another go and see if I can set it to work on my memory cells ... cheers!