Volunteer Marjie continues her series about perennial vegetables, part one here
This time we’re talking herbs rather than vegetables, but as with perennial veg, herbs will provide a constant supply year after year, with the minimum amount of care. Fresh herbs have many uses; we probably first think of them in a culinary sense, but they also have extensive remedial and therapeutic uses since ancient times.
Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus syn. Rosmarinus officialis)
Who can resist the aromatic scent of rosemary, especially on a warm day? This mediterranean native is a beautiful garden shrub in its own right, but it adds a distinctive flavour to many dishes, most commonly roasts, but is also dried for use in many mediterranean dishes, and fresh leaves can be made into a tea.
Rosemary is easy to grow, pest resistant, drought tolerant, and only requires trimming to keep its shape and prevent leggy growth. It thrives in an open sunny position, and will grow in most soils except heavy and wet. It will not tolerate water-logging and some varieties are frost sensitive, so check before you buy.
There are several cultivars available, ranging in habit from upright to groundcover. It can be propagated from cuttings put straight into the ground. Flower colours range from blues, through lavender pinks to white, and attract all kinds of bees.
Other uses for rosemary include shampoo, hair rinses, fragrant oils, and as an ingredient in cleaning products.
This plant has long been associated with remembrance and memory:
In mediaeval times it was used by students to help memorise when revising, and a sprig taken to examinations was said to help with recall. Shakespeare refers to rosemary in Hamlet: ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts’. (Ophelia to her brother Laertes). Rosemary grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula where more than 11,000 ANZAC soldiers died in the First World War campaign of the same name, and sprigs of the herb are worn at remembrance services.
Text by Marjie Spence, photos by facilitator Helena Simmons