The Rose of Mary

Rosmarinus officinalis: Rosemary (Rosmarin)

My rosemary is coming into flower again, well into bud I should say. The first time it did this I was a little surprised… flowering in January?

But then it is the flower of remembrance, and is traditionally associated with death and graves. January, the dead of winter, therefore seems to be the fitting season for it to blossom, although I believe it flowers most of the year in its native mediterranean region.

Then I found this poem and was relieved to read that it is not only my specimen that flowers at this time of year.

To The Herb Rosemary

Sweet scented flower! who art wont to bloom
On January’s front severe,
And o’er the wintry desert drear
To waft thy waste perfume!
Come, thou shalt form my nosegay now,
And I will bind thee round my brow;
And as I twine the mournful wreath,
I’ll weave a melancholy song…

by Henry Kirk White

I have heard two versions of why it is called rosemary… one story claims that the Virgin Mary laid down her blue cloak on the white-flowering bush, which then turned to blue. It was thus named the Rose of Mary. A more likely version is the Latin name being derived from “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus) since it grows in extremely dry areas where the only moisture it gets is salty sea mists.

A few other interesting facts:

  • It tastes fantastic in a tomato and aubergine pasta sauce! (Will post this soon).
  • Anyone can grow it, even in a pot. It needs lots of sun, and if it’s in a sheltered spot in the ground it survives a certain amount of frost.
  • If rosemary thrives in a garden, it means the woman has the upper hand in that household. (Okay, maybe not exactly a “fact”!)
  • It has properties which can regulate blood pressure, and should therefore be consumed in moderation by pregnant women and people taking medication for high blood pressure.
  • It smells wonderful all year round, and can be used as an alternative to lavender for scenting drawers and cupboards.
  • It used to be burnt as fuel in parts of France where it grew in abundance. (I bet that smelled good…)
  • It also tastes amazing baked in shortbread! (Will also give you the recipe one day).

For more information, take a look at this site (actually about vegetarian nutrition, but has good pages on herbs).

By the way, the first modern perfume containing alcohol was scented with rosemary… and it was to be drunk!