Columns

Gardener's Grapevine 2015.08.26

on . Posted in Gardener's Grapevine

By JO ERBSKORN

Who doesn’t love herbed meat? Chicken with rosemary and sage; beef in a tangy marinade; and fish with dill, cilantro, tarragon or rosemary is yummy. Come to think of it, rosemary is an excellent accent to any meat. In powdered form it can become too much, too fast. In fresh form, a branch laid across the meat gives it outstanding flavor without overpowering; it blends and melds with the essence of the meat.

Dill, rosemary and smoked gouda potatoes are good, which leads into my topic today—rosemary. Rosemary is a pungent, woody, very temperamental herb that grows in a bush. There are many things you can use rosemary for besides food. Its oil is extracted from the leaf and used to make medicine, lotions and soaps. Some uses medicinally are to increase menstrual flow (some believe it may cause abortions, which however, has not been medically proven so it is recommended to avoid it if pregnant, although food use will not harm the fetus); topically for baldness, eczema, toothache, muscle and nerve pain, wound healing and bath therapy. Rosemary is long believed to be a natural insect repellant. Research shows that rosemary in large amounts, as in oil form, increases circulation.

I have at least one rosemary plant growing at all times in the garden because we use it a lot in our cooking, and Art is one awesome cook. Rosemary chicken is my favorite Sunday dinner. Place a whole chicken in a roaster pan, shake some olive oil over it, lay a couple long sprigs of rosemary across it, put a lid on and put in the oven for a slow roast over 2 to 3 hours. This is beyond good.

Now the problem with growing rosemary is that it is super temperamental. If it doesn’t like its living conditions, like any plant, it will die. The trouble is, it often does not like its living conditions. Once during the holidays I was in Lowe’s in Toledo and they had a skid of Rosemary plants pruned into the shape of small Christmas trees. I, of course, thought how awesome, we can put it in the kitchen, decorate it and eat it! What could be more perfect? We never got to the eating stage as it hated something about the house and died. Of course, it could have had assistance from our cat, Cali. She ate every house plant ever brought into this house, including some supposedly toxic to cats but obviously not. I’ve never tried to grow rosemary in the house since.

When our garden was in the back yard I had an enormous rosemary plant growing. The soil, water levels and sunlight must have been perfect as that plant was huge—bigger around than a basketball. Well, that plant met an unfortunate end due to an unfortunate accident that left it up-rooted and torn apart out in the yard.

Currently, our rosemary resides in the terraced herb garden and is doing well. We do, however, have to protect it in the winter. Terraced gardens do not do well in winter because it's like being in a pot. Plants can freeze very easily if it’s a cold winter.

Propagating rosemary is very easy. Snip off a piece of rosemary, strip off the bottom two inches of leaves (they are spiny things), dip it in Rootone and put in a glass of warm water. Keep the water just above the stripped part and let it sit in a sunny spot until roots form, changing the water every four to five days. After roots form, put it in a pot with fresh potting soil.

If you try growing rosemary, don’t be discouraged. If you don’t succeed, try again in another spot. For me it’s worth it. I love that Sunday chicken dinner.

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