Rehabilitating the rosemary
It wasn’t the Queen of Hearts after all: it was the Knave. If I had paid closer attention to my Lewis Carroll, I would have anticipated it.
So while Boris is already a has-been (unless there is an epilogue to this near-Shakespearean drama), I’ll have to go back to calling my rosemary by its official name, Rosmarinus officinalis.
I’ll change her gender too. And my attitude along with it. The mother plant is a magnificent specimen, if totally out of hand, and there are any number of her offspring all around the garden, filling in gaps in the hedge at ground level, or growing up against the wooden fence separating the kitchen garden from the fruit trees, with more cuttings now established in three raised beds. So, yes, I should be grateful.
In Sirmione, Lake Garda, last month we found rosemary used as a hedge:
In the kitchen, rosemary is a wonderfully versatile herb, adding flavour to casseroles, pasta sauces, meat roasts and home-made stock, although legendary British food writer Elizabeth David would have none of it. Her advice is perhaps pertinent in the present context. Warning against its overpowering essential oil, she cautioned: “Rosemary has great charm as a plant but in cookery is a treacherous herb.”*
In the pharmacopoeia it helps ward off ageing and memory-loss, and relieves headaches, depression and nervous exhaustion, but is best avoided in pregnancy as it is spasmodic (may cause contractions). In Egypt you can obtain rosemary soap from the Nefertari natural products range; I’m thinking of making my own macerated oil to use in cooking – or maybe to rub on my aching joints after a day’s hard gardening.
So on the whole, I should curb my criticism of our overwhelming rosemary, I think. There’s nothing wrong if it grows like topsy as some of you have pointed out – it’s happy! And David had a point about the charm of rosemary, especially when it is in flower. Ours has multiple spikes heavy with pale mauve flowers, very pretty and an absolute magnet for the bees and other insects.
Long may she reign over her corner of the garden!
*In Italian Food, Elizabeth David, first published by MacDonald, 1954