Our previous blog post about the virtues of lavender got me to thinking. (Stimulation of the synapses is among the effects of lavender essence, after all.) As a greenhorn gardener on the Central Coast, it’s almost impossible for me to think about this wonderful purple bush without conjuring savory thoughts of pungent rosemary. In the drought tolerant herb garden, these supercharged Mediterranean perennials go together like Batman and Robin.
When it comes to warding off arch-enemies like olfactory ennui, culinary mediocrity, and general malaise, few shrubs can rival the super powers of the mighty rosemary. What other herb has such a rich history, a wealth of uses in cooking, cologne and aromatherapy, and grows so easily throughout California? Riddle me this.
From horror film classics to the folksy lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel, tributes to rosemary are countless, and its imprint on the collective psyche unforgettable. Among its many reputed benefits, in fact, is the improvement of memory. You may recall the words of Ophelia, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” (Hamlet, iv.5.)
But the mystique surrounding rosemary dates back far earlier than Shakespeare. In Greek mythology, when Aphrodite is born from the sea, she emerges from the water draped in rosemary. The Greek Ros Marinas actually translates as “Dew of the Sea,” and rosemary remains a mighty symbol of the goddess of love and beauty.
In the 1300s — so legend has it — the 72-year-old queen of Hungary charmed the pants off the king of Poland (Zoinks!) thanks largely to the wooing powers of Hungary Water, the illustrious perfume whose key ingredient was rosemary. For many centuries, rosemary continued to enjoy tremendous popularity for its scent and as an herbal remedy.
So whether you’re plotting a garden, preparing a dish, and craving a refreshing cleanse, consider the many benefits of rosemary. And if you’re skeptical about legends and jokers, just know that rosemary is also extremely high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6!