Tips for Growing and Using Rosemary
It’s easy to grow your own rosemary, a traditional Mediterranean herb that’s beloved everywhere. Just follow these few simple steps and you’ll be harvesting from your rosemary plant for years to come.
Rosemary is my favorite herb — I love the smell, the taste, the look — so there's no way I would leave it out of my new book about edible gardening, Vegetable Gardening Wisdom (Storey, 2019). Find some simple tips and ideas for growing and using rosemary, from the book and in the advice below. You'll be growing and harvesting your own in no time.
Planting and Growing Rosemary
The trick to growing rosemary, whether in a pot or in the ground, is to keep the soil — and therefore the plant’s roots — on the drier side. Think about rosemary’s native habitat on the Mediterranean coast and try to mimic those conditions as best you can. This aromatic herb grows well in basic, unglazed clay containers, which dry out quickly. In the ground, plant it where the ground drains well and won’t get soggy. And don’t overwater — spritzing the leaves and soil will be better than soaking it. Rosemary is hardy to about 20 degrees F, so many gardeners will do best to grow it in containers that can be brought inside during winter.
How to Harvest Rosemary
Harvest rosemary by snipping sprigs with pruners or kitchen scissors. New growth will be flexible and lighter green while older growth will be woodier and darker. Either is fine to use but new growth may be more fragrant and easier to chop. Strip the needles (also called leaves) from the stems by pulling downward, in the direction opposite from how they’re growing. They should come off easily this way. Bundle the needles and chop roughly to use in marinating, baking, and more.
Using Rosemary in the Kitchen
Rosemary is ideal in marinades for chicken and lamb and a great addition to hearty roasted vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. It also gives a lovely savory balance to sweet treats like shortbread. A favorite way to preserve rosemary is to make herb butter — just add a few tablespoons to softened butter, then refrigerate. Rosemary, especially woodier sprigs, also makes great skewers, either for appetizers like tomato and mozzarella snacks, or for use on the grill. Just strip some leaves from a portion of the sprig (reserving leaves for another use) and thread on vegetables or meat. If you plan on grilling, soak the rosemary beforehand to prevent it from burning.