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Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis



Rosemary is native to the countries of the Mediterranean. It grows even in dry locations and on stony slopes where agriculture is otherwise impossible. The ancient Romans valued this medicinal and seasoning herb. The Benedictine monks brought it to Central Europe in the 9th century.


Today the plant is grown in many countries in the temperate zones. In addition to the countries of the Mediterranean, rosemary is grown increasingly in India, South Africa, Australia, the USA and Mexico. Considerable amounts in Spain come from wild harvesting.



In commercial cultivation, rosemary is harvested during or after inflorescence, i.e. no earlier than in May. The fresh twigs are available all year.


It is also suitable for the domestic herb garden; the shoot ends can then be harvested the entire year. In winter the plant must be protected from frost, however, and it survives best at 10°C.


The dried leaves are sold all year round, and in some supermarkets fresh rosemary is sold in small plant pots.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

The evergreen, thickly branched, bushy shrub belongs botanically to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It can reach up to 2 m in height but it does not tolerate frost. Therefore, multi-annual cultivation is possible only in a mild climate.


On the upright standing, four-sided branches grow firm, leathery, needle-like leaves that reach a length of 2-4 cm. On the top they are smooth and shiny, while the underside is covered with fine hairs, felt-like and grey and a bit rolled up. From May to July rosemary bears conspicuous light-blue, pink or white blossoms.


The scent and taste of the leaves are bitter, spicy-tart, slightly resinous and camphor-like.

Dried leaves resemble grey-green fir needles. They are sharper and more bitter than fresh.



Rosemary contains 1-3% essential oil, with the composition dependent on the variety and the time of harvest. Among the most common ingredients are cineol, pinene, camphene, verbenone, bornyl acetate, camphor, borneol, cymene, and myrcene.


The oil, various organic acids, tannins, bitter substances and resin contribute to the flavour.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

The fresh twigs and leaves can be kept in the refrigerator for several days if they are in a plastic bag or set in water. Like most herbs, freshly chopped rosemary with a little water freezes well.

Dried leaves should be stored cool, dry and protected from light. They will remain aromatic for at least a year in an airtight container. Ground rosemary should not be stored for any length of time as it quickly loses its aroma.


Presumed effect on health

The botanical name including the word officinalis (= medicine) indicates its manifold uses as a healing plant.


Owing to its bitter and aromatic taste, rosemary stimulates the appetite and the digestion. It is used for stomach and intestinal disorders, for gall-bladder problems and to improve liver functions.

In folk medicine, rosemary is used to treat colic and urinary tract infections, for diseases of the respiratory tract, and to alleviate headache and migraine. Rosemary is supposed to relieve nervousness and menstruation and heart complaints.


Taking rosemary during pregnancy is not recommended, because it cannot be precluded that it may contribute to miscarriages.


Topical use in the form of baths and salves is supposed to promote wound healing and to help in the case of sprains, strains and bruises. It is also recommended to support therapy for rheumatism, circulatory complaints and general fatigue.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Rosemary is preferably used fresh. The leaves are also marketed dried and whole, cut or ground, however.


The herb is popular in Mediterranean cuisine for meat dishes such as mutton, game and poultry, or to flavour fish. For barbecuing, the meat is marinated with rosemary, or it is rubbed with it, or a twig is laid on the hot coals.


Rosemary goes with pasta, omelettes, mushrooms, home-fried potatoes and vegetables, particularly dishes with tomatoes and eggplant / aubergine, zucchini, cabbage and green beans. Sheep's cheese (feta), pizza and salads take on a wonderful aroma with rosemary, as do soups, sauces and marinades.


Even for sweet dishes or desserts, such as baked goods or strawberry, apricot and sour-cherry jam, rosemary is used. Twigs of rosemary can be allowed to marinate in olive oil, milk or syrup or used to make aromatic vinegar.


The essential oil is used industrially to make liqueurs, tea mixtures and cosmetics.


Seasoning tip

Since rosemary leaves are quite firm and tough, they should be chopped with a spice grinder or removed before the food is served. In cooked dishes rosemary can be stewed with the food in a spice egg or a tea filter. Sometimes it is preferable to use just the seasoned oil or vinegar to add flavour.


Rosemary combines well with caraway, tarragon, marjoram, thyme or sage. However, it also goes well with garlic, bay leaf, oregano, parsley and chives.





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