It’s been a tiring day, and the day’s not over yet. Need a little pick-me-up? Pinch a bit of rosemary, bruise it in your cupped hands, and breathe it in, slow and steady. Repeat three times.
Do you feel better now, as if a grateful little prayer just washed through your body? You have experienced one of the essences of rosemary, which scientists believe is related to carnosic acid, a potent antioxidant that could be a key to brain health. Carnosic acid also is one of the few antioxidants that serves the body in stages rather than all at once, so the benefits of a dinner of rosemary-encrusted roast turkey might extend far beyond the meal.
In the garden, rosemary contributes bee-pleasing blue blooms on sturdy, attractive plants with needle-like leaves. Rosemary’s green-gray hue combines easily with other herbs and perennials in garden beds, containers and bouquets. The upright forms make handsome evergreen hedges, while the creeping types can be used to spill gracefully over a stone wall or the edges of a terracotta planter. Wherever you grow rosemary, you’ll want it close at hand where you can enjoy its heavenly scent up-close and often.
Exploring the essence of rosemary is best done with fresh stems in hand, so if you have no plant yet, buy a fresh bunch at the store to try recipes like Rosemary and Cherry Focaccia. Mark where “The Rosemary Hall of Fame” describes 16 outstanding rosemary cultivars. Set aside a few long rosemary sprigs to sniff as you learn how to keep rosemary healthy through the winter. By the time the bunch is gone, you will know you simply cannot be without rosemary.
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Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant, author of The Whole Herb (Square One, 2004), writes and gardens at her home in Virginia.