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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which also includes many other herbs. Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m tall, rarely 2 m. The leaves are evergreen, 2-4 cm long and 2-5 mm broad, green above, and white below with dense short woolly hairs. The flowers are variable in color, being white, pink, purple, or blue.
The name rosemary has nothing to do with the rose or the name Mary, but derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, which literally means "dew of the sea", though some think this too may be derived from an earlier name.
Cultivation and uses
The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as a herb; they have a bitter, astringent taste, which complements oily foods, such as lamb and oily fish. A tisane can also be made from them. They are extensively used in cooking, and when burned give off a distinct mustard smell, as well as a smell similar to that of burning which can be used to flavor foods while barbecueing.
Since it is attractive and tolerates some degree of drought, it is also used in landscaping, especially in areas having a Mediterranean climate. It can in fact die in over-watered soil, but is otherwise quite easy to grow for beginner gardeners. It is very pest-resistant.
Rosemary is easily pruned into shapes and has been used for topiary. When grown in pots, it is best kept trimmed to stop it getting too straggly and unsightly, though when grown in a garden, rosemary can grow quite large and still be attractive. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot 10-15 cm long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden use. The following are frequently sold:
Rosemary is a useful food preservative, according to research published in 1987 by Rutgers University, New Jersey. Researchers at Rutgers patented a chemical derived from rosemary that compares favorably with BHA and BHT in its preservative properties.
Rosemary can be added as an unusual extra flavoring in lemonade. It can also be used as perfume.
Hungary water was first invented for the Queen of Hungary to "renovate vitality of paralysed limbs". It was used externally and prepared by mixing 180g of fresh rosemary tops in full flower into a liter of spirits of wine. Leave to stand for four days then distill. It is also supposed to work as a remedy against gout if rubbed vigorously on hands and feet.
Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory, and has been used as a symbol for remembrance (during weddings, war commemorations and funerals) in Europe, probably as a result of this reputation. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance". One modern study lends some credence to this reputation. When the smell of rosemary was pumped into cubicles where people were working, those people showed improved memory, though with slower recall. A second study shows that carnosic acid, found in rosemary, shields the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's. 
Don Quixote (Chapter XVII, 1st volume) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras with revolting results.
Health Precautions: In some cases, rosemary can cause autoimmune diseases. Rosemary in culinary or therapeutic doses is generally safe, however precaution is necessary for those displaying allergic reaction, or those prone to epileptic seizure. Rosemary essential oil is a powerful convulsant; if applied to the skin, it may cause seizures in otherwise healthy adults or children. Rosemary essential oil is potentially toxic if ingested. Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause adverse reactions, such as coma, spasm, vomiting, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) that can be fatal. Avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary if pregnant or breastfeeding.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rosemary". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|