Rosemary, by dew and by sea

Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This text was originally published in Le Soleil on August 20, 1998.

Legend has it that rosemary had white flowers until one day, when the Virgin Mary laid out her freshly washed blue dress to dry. The color rubbed off… and rosemary flowers have been blue ever since.

Whether you believe the legend or not, don’t think that the word “rosemary” (rosmarinus, in Latin) derives from “Mary’s rose”. Its name predates Christianity by a long shot. Indeed, the plant has been well known to Mediterranean people since antiquity. In fact, this shrub grew (and still grows) close to the shore, and the small blue flowers gave the impression, from a distance, that the plant was covered in dew, hence the name rosmarinus: ros latin for “dew” and marinus meaning “of the sea”.

Rosemary in bloom.

Annual in Canada

In Canada, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) doesn’t grow near the sea. This almost subtropical plant isn’t hardy enough to survive our winters. However, it can be grown in the vegetable garden as an annual herb, or in pots as a houseplant. I even know people who grow it as a topiary (a geometrically sculpted shrub) or bonsai. You can also take cuttings from plants in the vegetable garden. Root them in the house in autumn to keep the plant alive over winter.

Even if rosemary didn’t flower, we’d still grow it. Its habit – semi-creeping or creeping, with narrow, dark-green, almost needle-like evergreen leaves – is most graceful.


But it’s above all its aroma that attracts us. Just rub the foliage and you’ll smell it: a sweet, rich scent, reminiscent of pine, is released. As the scent of rosemary was believed to activate memory, the Greeks and Romans wore rosemary corsages to funerals, so as not to forget the deceased.

In Europe, rosemary is still added to wedding bouquets… no doubt to remind the bride of her beautiful days of freedom lost!

Kitchen and Pharmacy

While we use rosemary, fresh or dried, as a fine culinary herb, notably to enhance lamb dishes and to make flavored oils and vinegars, in the past, its medical use was more important. Rosemary was used to treat arthritis, rheumatism and muscular pain, and in potions to treat depression, anxiety, migraine and fatigue.

Like bay leaf, rosemary is often added during cooking, then removed before serving, as the leaves themselves have a bitter taste. For this reason, we recommend adding a twig covered with leaves during cooking: it will be easier to retrieve, at the end, than individual leaves. And you can flavour meats by placing a few twigs on the barbecue coals.

To preserve garden rosemary, cut stems in summer and dry them upside down. However, you can use fresh rosemary at any time, from spring to autumn, if you grow it in the garden, and even in winter, if you keep it indoors.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “Rosemary, by dew and by sea

  1. Your blog beautifully captures the essence of Rosemary, both adorned with dew and caressed by the sea breeze. Aromatic and tranquil, it’s nature’s gift for senses. Its good idea to play game while plating.

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