Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which also includes many other herbs. Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m tall, rarely 2 m. The leaves are evergreen, 2-4 cm long and 2-5 mm broad, green above, and white below with dense short woolly hairs. The flowers are variable in color, being white, pink, purple, or blue.
The name rosemary has nothing to do with the rose or the name Mary, but derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, which literally means "dew of the sea", though some think this too may be derived from an earlier name.
The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as a herb; they have a bitter, astringent taste, which complements oily foods, such as lamb and oily fish. A tisane can also be made from them. They are extensively used in cooking, and when burned give off a distinct mustard smell, as well as a smell similar to that of burning which can be used to flavor foods while barbecueing.
Rosemary, in the dried form, is extremely high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6. It is in fact more nutrient rich in its dry form than fresh rosemary across the board.
Since it is attractive and tolerates some degree of drought, it is also used in landscaping, especially in areas having a Mediterranean climate. It can in fact die in over-watered soil, but is otherwise quite easy to grow for beginner gardeners. It is very pest-resistant.
Rosemary is easily pruned into shapes and has been used for topiary. When grown in pots, it is best kept trimmed to stop it getting too straggly and unsightly, though when grown in a garden, rosemary can grow quite large and still be attractive. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot 10-15 cm long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden use. The following are frequently sold:
Rosemary is a useful food preservative, according to research published in 1987 by Rutgers University, New Jersey. Researchers at Rutgers patented a chemical derived from rosemary that compares favorably with BHA and BHT in its preservative properties.
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