Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rosemary, Potatoes, and waxing poetic: Part One

This is a picture of my rosemary plant out in my garage.  I am nursing it through these winter months in the hope it will survive til' spring.  I put it out when it's sunny, water it a bit, and surround it with garbage cans on cold nights, or pieces of an old rug my hubby is cutting up and getting rid of bit by bit in the trash.  When I lived in Texas I had one in the shape of a tree...but it died.  I bought another one.  It died.  I began thinking that the rosemary didn't like me.  I tried one more time.  It died too.  Now I was beginning to get a complex.  I gave up after a while, figuring perhaps the central TX summer sun was a bit much for it (it was).  When we moved to MD, I bought sprigs of rosemary in the supermarket at $1.99/pop to use in one or two dishes. 

When spring came around, I saw a little rosemary plant in our local garden center.  I touched its leaves, and I swear that plant was saying "buy me".  I did, and lovingly transplanted it into that big pot you see in the picture...and I was rewarded for my kindness.

Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant plant - it's funny... I tend to think of rosemary in a more personal way than any other herb or seems to me to have a life all its own. For one spreads the love...if I am watering my rosemary, and I touch its leaves in an affectionate gesture, the scent will be on my don't have to force the aroma out like you do with mint, basil, or any other herb - no, rosemary is more generous with their affection - a simple touch is all it takes for it to give you a memento. (Then again, maybe mint and basil are a bit on the kinky side)  If you don't believe me, next time you are in a garden center, touch a few leaves, then tell me if you can bear to leave the plant there. I know that sounds silly and romanticized, but that's how I feel. The flavor it imparts to food is so simple, yet SO GOOD. Toss it with some olive oil, potatoes and onions, and roast them in the oven...sprinkle on some chicken, use it in some bread, some soup, some tomato sauce - rosemary will step up to the plate every time. You can even use it in a sweet bread. It's such a wonderfully aromatic, versatile herb.

A Brief History

The earliest use of rosemary was its association with remembering significant events. Sprigs were thrown into graves by ancient Greeks and Romans to signify their desire to remember the departed. Rosemary was also used in ancient Greece to strengthen the memory. Students wore springs of the herb in their hair when they studied. (I have not tried this, but maybe my daughter or her BFF can experiment and see if this works - they may start a new trend LOL)

In English Tudor times, the bridesmaids gave sprigs of rosemary to the bridegroom. Brides wore it to show they would always remember their families. Rosemary was added to wine which was then used to toast the happy couple and ensure that the toast would come true. Rosemary was so strongly associated with fidelity that if a man was indifferent to the aroma of rosemary it was believed that he was incapable of giving true love. (Tina, wave some under Robby's nose-I think he'll pass with flying colors!)

As far as growing rosemary goes - it's a member of the evergreen family (you know, Christmas trees, pines, firs, the like) and can grow year round.  It likes sun, but can take a bit of shade.  Supposedly you need to bring the plant indoors if the temperatures drop below 30, but mine has tolerated less than that bundled up occasionally in the garage all winter.  Well drained soil, and keep on the dry side, but do not let them dry out completely, especially in the summer.  You can get some varieties of rosemary that will tolerate -15 degrees!  To use, simply cut what you need with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

Because of my enthusiasm for rosemary, I assumed that there would be a plethora of poems associated with the fragrant herb.  Alas, I only found one (and it's not a very good one either!):


Beauty and Beauty's son and rosemary -
Venus and Love, her son, to speak plainly -
born of the sea supposedly,
at Christmas each, in company,
braids a garland of festivity.
Not always rosemary -
since the flight to Egypt, blooming indifferently.
With lancelike leaf, green but silver underneath,
its flowers - white originally -
turned blue. The herb of memory,
imitating the blue robe of Mary,
is not too legendary
to flower both as symbol and as pungency.
Springing from stones beside the sea,
the height of Christ when he was thirty-three,
it feeds on dew and to the bee
"hath a dumb language"; is in reality
a kind of Christmas tree.
                                         -Marianne Moore offense to Ms. Moore, but I am not crazy about that poem.  (It's a good thing my son's English teacher didn't pick THAT poem to interpret during their study of poetry.)
Let me see if I can do better:

Ode to Rosemary

Needles that do not prick, rather they amuse with heady perfume – there are no pretenses.
A scent cloying, lingers, as you brush the branches with your fingers.

Waiting patiently for conversation - a snippet here, a snippet there, taken without reservation
The cook talks, the leaves listen, as in the pot the needles glisten.

The masterpiece set upon the table, while praises ring from the guests as their taste buds savor.
Rosemary again, rises to the occasion, as the cook basks in adulation.

Too sappy?

(Part TWO tomorrow-recipe will follow)


  1. i loved it!!! i love how you can relate your food blog to SO many other lovely things like that. :) amazing,you are.

  2. are too sweet LOL. Rosemary just happens to be my fotm (Flavor of the month) I'm sure by summer, Basil will take its place...(I better not say that too loud!)