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Remember to Plant Rosemary

It will strengthen your memory and improve your meals

     “Rosemary is for remembrance, pray you love, remember,” says Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
     In the language of flowers, rosemary represents remembrance, fidelity, devotion, wisdom and strengthened memory. In the spirit of love, rosemary has been used in wedding crowns and bouquets, dipped in sweet waters or gilded and often tied with gold ribbons. It was presented to the groom as well as the bride and was one of the first bouquets to be thrown to bridesmaids.
     Medicinally, it has antioxidant properties, antimicrobial and antifungal compounds. The antioxidants help prevent aging in cells. It has preservative powers comparable to the commercial BHA and BHT, which have been thought to prevent cancer. Rosemary might also be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s as it contains half a dozen compounds that stop the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter. Alzheimer’s medications like tacrine work in a similar manner. 
     Everyone should grow rosemary. It’s aromatic, sweet, pine-like scent is great for cooking or waking up your senses. Not only is it medicinal, it’s also a beautiful plant in the garden. There are rosemarys with upright growth habits and prostrate growth habits. They bloom with tiny little blue flowers that are also edible.
      Marginally hardy in central Maryland, rosemary is more apt to survive in southern Maryland or areas close to the water. Cultivars that survive the best are Arp, Hill Hardy and Gorizia, with very large leaves. 
     Rosemary plants can be tricky to grow, and you might kill one before you grow it well. Knowing where a plant is native to can help you grow it better. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean coast. It thrives on rocky calcareous cliffs with roots semi-exposed. It grows best in full sun with added limestone. It loves a sheltered, sunny south-facing position. It likes a pH range of 6.0 to 8.5. 
    To grow it well indoors you must use an extremely well-draining potting medium with a lot of perlite or something like cactus potting soil and a handful of lime mixed in. It must sit in a sunny window and get at least six hours of sun. If you see white mold growing on the leaves, cut those off and give it more sun or less water. In containers, water sparingly when it is almost ready to wilt but not a day later or it will dry up. 
     The best use for rosemary is in cooking. You can’t cook lamb without rosemary and garlic. The resulting roasted flavor is unique and delectable. Rosemary is wonderful on chicken, breads and potatoes.
      Try this simple recipe of parboiling peeled chunks of Yukon gold potatoes until semi-tender. Drain and sauté in olive oil until lightly browned. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped rosemary, the juice of two lemons and put in the oven at 400 degrees until browned and crisped on the edges. Delicious!