Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Who rules the roost?

Wall of rosemary
If you drive by a home sporting a yard full of torn-up rosemary consider the following:

From Wikipedia: "Somehow, the use of rosemary in the garden to repel witches turned into signification that the woman ruled the household in homes and gardens where rosemary grew abundantly. By the 16th century, this practise became a bone of contention; and men were known to rip up rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, ruled the roost."

Our yard is full of rosemary and it's staying put.  It smells piney, but not exactly because there's an herby undertone. It's "evergreen" to me and a deep breathful recalls the vast fir forests in the Pacific northwest and in Canada. After a rain or snow, those forests are loaded with ozone and the aroma of moss, rocks and the heady effluvia of green, growing things. Eau de Mother Earth.  Attempts at replicating this kind of aroma from air freshener manufacturers and the like, fall very short of the real thing.

We use the rosemary frequently. The flavor is assertive and just a little goes a long way. Wonderful with roasted vegetables and most meats, it should be chopped finely for even distribution and also to prevent chomping on a fragment (in a chunk it can be bitter and resinous) which can unbalance the overall flavor of a dish. A bit can be minced up in a root vegetable salad or sprinkled over anything roasted. If you place a fresh sprig on any plate of hot food, the aroma volatizes almost immediately and wafts up into your face. In Italy, they'll put sprigs on the plate and use a cover; lift the cover and you're engulfed with the smell. It's an easy aroma to coax out of hiding. You really don't need to coax it - it volunteers. Just a brush against the plants and you'll have the smell clinging for a while.

Because I have huge bushes of the herb, I can cut off bouquets and bring them into the house. Too much of it though and the house smells like soap. The aroma is ideal mixed about one third with flowers like the ever-blooming New Zealand tea plant or lavender which we also have in abundance right now.

Jasmine, a bit hail damaged

Hail fall over the weekend

NZ tea plant
Lots of lavender


  1. Smelling Rosemary always reminds me of Grandma. She used to take us in her backyard and point out the rosemary and have us rub it in our hands and smell it. So every time I smell it, it brings back lots of good memories.

  2. How's interesting what sticks in your memory for the long run. It's never the big events, but
    more often small moments that you treasure. Whenever I stayed over with her she would slice strawberries almost paper thin and pile them on my toast in the morning. The strawberry baskets in the product dept. often bring unexpected tears.

  3. i have a rosemary question. I have a giant bush and I always wonder if it's better to pick the newer leaves and let the old woody ones alone. is there any difference between the old and the new?

  4. Very funny and interesting post! I also grow a lot of rosemary in my terrace but my husband has no complaints about it! :D
    On the contrary! He is a good cook (much better than I am) and he often adds it to his meat dishes. Yummy!