Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a fragrant evergreen herb with needle-like leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region but now grows worldwide. It is a species in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family, which includes other popular herbs such as mint, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram, and lavender. The family also includes medicinal herbs such as bee balm, salvia, and catnip.
Rosemary is a perennial herb with a robust, piney flavor, citrus undertones, slight bitterness, earthy notes, and pepper.
This post covers everything you need to know about this herb, including different varieties, culinary uses, growing, storing, preserving, substitutions, and recipes.
In 5000 BCE, rosemary was first mentioned on a Cuneiform tablet. It was also mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts. The herb is associated with remembrance and memory. It first appeared in Europe in the 1300s and North America in the 17th century.
Often, it also adds depth to roasted vegetables, potatoes, and stews. Try my Roasted cherry Tomato Sauce.
Additionally, it is used to infuse oils and vinegar, creating aromatic dressings and sauces. It can be used fresh or dried, making it a staple in kitchens worldwide, contributing to a wide range of savory dishes with its robust and aromatic profile.
- Arp rosemary is known for its cold hardiness (rosemary generally grows best in warmer climates). It has silvery-green leaves and a milder flavor compared to other varieties.
- Tuscan Blue is also cold-tolerant. It has vibrant blue flowers and an upright growth habit. It has an assertive, aromatic flavor.
- Blue Boy has a compact growth habit and is well-suited for container gardening or growing in smaller spaces. It has small leaves and a milder flavor.
Rosemary is used in aromatherapy, potpourri, and as an insect repellent. It is also commonly used in decorating, particularly around Christmas. It also has symbolic significance in different cultures; sprigs can be used in ceremonies, weddings, and memorials.
High-Level Nutritional Information
Rosemary contains fiber, vitamins A, C, and B6, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Rosemary nutrition can vary based on factors such as growing conditions and specific varieties. Please consult a licensed dietician or specialist for nutritional information or dietary advice.
How to Grow
While rosemary can be started from seed indoors or in a greenhouse 6–8 weeks before the last frost and transplanted outside once the threat of frost has passed, it can be finicky, and it may be easier to buy as a start from a nursery.
Rosemary is also easy to propagate and can be started from a cutting: clear the lower leaves on your cutting and immerse in water. Pot it up once you see visible roots.
Rosemary is a perennial, with some varieties hardy down to 10°F. If you live in a colder climate, it does well in pots, brought inside for the winter. Rosemary prefers full sun and well-draining soil with a pH between 6 and 7.
When the plants are young, they need consistent watering, but as they mature, they should be watered deeply less often, giving the top soil time to dry out in between. Bringing a first-year seedling inside for the winter will help it establish better inground the following year.
When harvesting, simply clip the branches. Make sure not to clip more than ⅓ of the plant so it has enough energy to re-grow.
- Thyme has a somewhat similar earthy and savory flavor to rosemary, making it a suitable substitute in many dishes.
- Oregano has a strong and aromatic flavor, and while it's not identical to rosemary, it can complement various dishes, especially in Mediterranean cuisine.
- Sage has a distinctive flavor, including some earthy and piney notes, making it a reasonable substitute for rosemary, particularly in savory dishes.
- Savory Summer savory or winter savory can provide a somewhat peppery and herbal flavor, making them potential substitutes for rosemary.
Herbes de Provence, a blend of dried herbs, includes rosemary in addition to thyme, oregano, and sometimes lavender. It can be a convenient substitute when you don't have rosemary alone.
How to Store
Harvesting fresh rosemary and using it as needed is best; however, you can store it in the fridge by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and placing it in a plastic bag.
Store dried rosemary in an airtight container, ideally out of direct sunlight.
How to Preserve
Drying: Dried rosemary maintains its flavor very well. To dry, hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area and out of direct sunlight until dry. Then, remove the leaves from the stem and store them in an airtight container in a dark place. Alternatively, you could use a dehydrator. Check out my blog post on Drying Herbs.
Freezing: Chop the leaves and freeze them in a freezer-safe container.
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