I still get a thrill whenever I see my words in print. there is something really magical when ideas–intangible things–transform into black marks on a solid page. I am thrilled to have my article Dew of the Sea, a meditation on the virtues of the humble rosemary plant, in this month’s Salt magazine.
Since I’m sure you can’t read the tiny writing in the photo, I have copied here for you.
I hope you enjoy it; and please feel free to comment here and tell me what you love about rosemary too.
Rosemary, the Dew of the Sea
Lately, I’ve been pondering the virtues of the humble rosemary plant.
At our house, rosemary bushes grow in a garden bed near the chook houses, sharing space with lavender (a close relative in the Lamiaceae family) and a few sprawling zucchini and broccoli plants as well as some exotics I’d rather weren’t there. It’s growing in pots on my verandah and for months now I’ve been actively cutting and striking new plants, delighted at how easily posies of cuttings grow new roots while sitting in tiny jars of water on the kitchen bench.
I’m a lazy yet enchanted gardener by nature so hardy plants like rosemary, which tolerate my neglect with patience and fortitude, are enthusiastically welcomed into my motley crew of vegetation. Rosemary and lavender are possibly two of my favourite plants of all time.
Rosmarinus officinalis comes from the Latin ros, meaning dew, and marinus, meaning sea. It is therefore known as ‘dew of the sea’, appropriate for where we live here on the coast and in the hinterland.
Rosemary, for all its culinary and medicinal wonders, is also steeped in legend, folklore and tradition, associated with the goddess Aphrodite, Jesus and Mother Mary, and mentioned in no less than five of Shakespeare’s plays. Historically, it has been burned to purify the air of sickness and plagues and to ward off evil spirits. Brides carried wreaths of woven rosemary on their wedding day and gold-dipped sprigs were given to guests. Bundles were thrown into graves along with coffins and the bushes were reported to attract good fairy folk and protect babies from bad fairy folk.
Rosemary has the unusual gift of symbolising both love and death; it is the complete circle of life in one and reminds us that we can never have one without the other.
A common theme that weaves its way through most of rosemary’s history is that of remembrance. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia directly says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance”. Culturally, we wear it on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day to help us remember the fallen and, poignantly for Australians, rosemary actually grows wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.
In aromatherapy circles, the essential oil is touted as the ‘oil of students’, promoted for its ability to help our recall during exam time. Greek students are said to have worn crowns of rosemary on their heads while studying to improve their cognitive abilities. Recent clinical research has backed this up, with BBC news only months ago reporting that inhaling rosemary essential oil may indeed improve exam results. Another study showed that the use of rosemary essential oil may improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s.
I have always loved rosemary for its resilience, its purple blooms and its fragrance, but recently fell in love with it again as I began cooking Tuscan food after a trip to Italy last year. In fact, I began a whole ‘Tuscan garden’ on my verandah, with olive and citrus trees in pots, along with sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, lavender and of course rosemary. I toss the rosemary into bone broths, casseroles, soups, roasting meats and slow-cooked dishes. We threw a Tuscan-inspired Easter dinner this year for family and friends and posies and branches of rosemary served both as feast ingredients and as decorations.
Since then, my passion has only increased. Search on Pinterest for rosemary and you’ll find inspiration for simple yet tasty creations, like rosemary and lemon sea salt, rosemary-infused olive oil, or rosemary and cucumber iced water. Feel like baking? How about rosemary and cranberry biscuits, or rosemary and zucchini bread. (I made the latter with my abundance of home grown zucchini; it was so delicious that it was gone in less than twenty-four hours.) Or what about rosemary lemon cake with lemon curd filling and rosemary butter cream?
So besotted have I become with the hard-working, honest and versatile rosemary plant that I have even chosen it as my new author logo.
With its captivating fragrance, culinary delights, its hardy constitution and tolerance for a wide range of growing conditions (and for even the laziness of gardeners), its beautiful gift of memory recall and its place in our country’s traditions of remembrance, rosemary offers us an endless bounty of botanical gifts to enjoy all year round.