This installment of “10 Essential Herbs and Plants for Health” looks at why growing rosemary makes an ideal culinary herb to grow in the kitchen garden – being also useful as a companion plant and as a hedge.
Rosemary as a Culinary Herb
Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean and so naturally it is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean recipes. Rosemary, like thyme, delays the putrefaction of meat by slowing down the proliferation of bacteria but its impossible to know whether it was first used in Mediterranean food because of this or because of the distinctive aromatic flavour it gives when added to dishes.
Rosemary’s Latin name rosmarinus means sea-dew which may come from its presence in coastal regions or from the dew-like appearance of its flowers when seen from a distance. Rosemary is a member of the Labiatae (or Lamiaceae) family which also includes marjoram, oregano, lavender, thyme, basil, mint, sage and savory.
Rosemary in Vegetable and Herb Gardens
Rosemary is an ideal companion plant for carrots as it is said to repel carrot fly and there is a mutually beneficial effect on growth when it is planted near sage.
The denseness of a developed, rosemary plant of an upright variety along with its evergreen nature make it an an effective screening hedge for a vegetable garden which has the advantage of also being pretty and aromatic.
Rosemary is fairly frost-hardy but in very cold areas it prefers a sunny, protected position. It also does well in pots so is ideal to keep near the kitchen – either on a sunny windowsill or by the back door.
How to Make Rosemary Potatoes
This versatile but simple recipe adapts well for use on a barbecue or for roast potatoes done in a conventional oven or wood-burning stove.
Any variety of potatoes suitable for roasting will work but for new potatoes, use at least double the quantity and cut into halves.
- 8 medium potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
- 8 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
- 8 garlic cloves in their skin
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1-2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parboil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes in salted boiling water until firm but not soggy.
- In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, chopped rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.
- Add the potato chunks to the bowl and toss gently with a spoon until the potatoes are covered with the basting sauce.
Instructions for Roast Potatoes
- For roast potatoes preheat oven to 400°F / 200ºC.
- Either wrap up the potatoes and garlic cloves in aluminium foil for a less crispy version or place them directly in a roasting tin and turn them occasionally until golden brown. In the latter case its best to add the garlic cloves after about 25 minutes drizzling a little extra olive oil over them.
(Cooking time approx 45 minutes.)
Instructions for Barbecue Potatoes
- For the barbecue, prepare a charcoal grill.
- Thread the basted potatoes onto skewers with a clove of garlic at the end. Grill, turning several times until the potatoes are browned and cooked.
If using bamboo skewers, soak in warm water prior to use to prevent burning.
The inclusion of a fresh sprig of Rosemary gives aromatic authenticity to Mediterranean-style recipes making it an extremely useful herb for anyone starting to grow fresh herbs in their vegetable garden or in patio tubs. Rosemary also has benefits as a companion plant and for creating natural borders that are as attractive as they are sweet-smelling.
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Philbrick, Helen & Gregg, Richard B: Companion Plants