This week’s winter warming herb is a strongly scented evergreen shrub which many people grow in urban gardens. There are a few Rosemary shrubs growing along my street and I am not alone in enjoying a small amount every week or so, in my meals.
If you are able to find some Rosemary, growing near you, I’d love to see a photo and learn what you like to do with it.
Rosemary is in the aromatic Lamiaceae family. It is known for its ability to stimulate the mind and digestive system.
It was dark at both ends of my work day today, it’s almost midwinter. So here is a photo of some Rosemary, plucked as I came home, from the geveltuin (pavement garden) beneath my apartment. Tasty, beneficial and free!
Here’s a photo of a tiny section of a well stocked pavement garden. It it’s brimming with plants, many of which are herbs. The three shown here are Passionflower (Passiflora) to the left, Sage (Salvia officinalis) in the centre and Rosemary (Rosemary officinalis) to the right.
Been preparing for Monday’s apprenticeship meeting and almost forgot to write today’s post…
Here’s a delicious and stimulating Rosemary (Rosemary officinalis) bush which resides beneath my apartment in a bone dry geveltuin. One of the most well known culinary herbs, Rosemary is also very medicinal. It makes an easy herb oil, useful for rubbing on sore muscles or congested chests. It is known as a remedy for indigestion, some scalp ailments and when you brush past the plant it’s obvious that it can clear the sinuses and enliven the senses. Here’s a useful link to lots of information about Rosemary, including it’s drug interactions.
Now is the time to seek out healthy evergreen urban herbs, in readiness for the coldest months when foragers need to
We have painters arriving at any moment, to decorate the front of our apartment. My little Mediterranean herb geveltuin (pavement garden) sits right in the line of fire so I decided to harvest a good quantity of stems and flowers from a few of the plants.
I’ll use the Lavender to make an infused olive oil (for cooking and use on skin).
The Rosemary will also make a great infused oil, an aromatic vinegar and I’ll dry some for winter meals.
The Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) will make a good insect repellant to spray on plants & people and a crumbly delicious culinary herb when dried. I’ll infuse some oil with the rest, to add to room sprays and for use in cooking and more. I’ll also reserve some for a small quantity of wormwood/absinthe schnapps.
I love this herb and will add it to the meetup group propagation programme next year as it is listed as a threatened species in the Netherlands. It really thrives in the dry sandy soil beneath our apartment and I’m sure more people would appreciate having it around. If you’d like some to propagate when the times come, please contact me.
This year there is not so much Rue and the Sage is too low growing to harvest without making it look messy.
This recipe for anti cellulite body oil is inspired by one in Josephine Fairley’s book, The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book. My sister gave it to me as a present several years ago and although I don’t use it very often, it always provides inspiration for natural skin care. The recipe in the book uses a few drops of essential oils of Rosemary, Fennel and Juniper.
In my adaptation, I use small amounts of the fresh plants or seeds. I also substitute olive oil, argan oil or sweet almond oil for grape seed oil as that oil quickly becomes rancid whereas my substitutes don’t. If you prefer a lighter oil then you could substitute coconut oil, mixed with a little of one of the other options.
15 large fresh Ivy leaves
Tip of a fresh Juniper sprig
Tip of a fresh Rosemary sprig
1/2 Teaspoon of fennel seeds
125ml oil (see above for options)
1. Bruise the plant material with a pestle & mortar or similar.
2. Place in a clean glass container and put over the oil.
3. Use a chopstick to push the herbs into the oil and to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.
4. Leave in a sunny spot for about 4 Weeks.
5. Strain off and save the infused you’ll into a clean glass container. Compost the spent herbs our return then to where you found them.
6. Use the oil as you would any massage oil, with upward strokes to move the circulation towards the heart. Do this preferably after
skin brushing with a dry sisal brush or similar.
I recently bought a wonderful second hand copy of Herbal Remedies: A practical beginner’s guide to making effective remedies in the kitchen. It contains instructions on several traditional herbal remedies that many modern herbals omit. One, which I read with interest, is Vinegar & Brown Paper, as featured in the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. Apparently it is quite an effective remedy for sprains, bruises and sore joints. It made me think more about the virtues of vinegar. So here are few preparations which you may like to try.
If you like investigating this sort of thing, you may be interested in the Urban Herbology Apprenticeship Course. The course covers foraging, crafting herbs, fermentation and nature celebrations, among other topics!
Vinegar and Brown Paper This traditional remedy (taken from Hedley & Shaw’s book) is said to relieve swollen aching joints and limbs. I have not yet tried it and am very interested to hear from anyone who does! Why not let me know in the comments or contact boxes below.
1. Cut 5 or 6 pieces of brown (packaging) paper, just big enough to fit over the affected area.
2. Place in a saucepan and cover with Sage vinegar (read on for how to make this).
3. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes, until the brown paper becomes soft and has absorbed some vinegar, yet is not broken down.
4. When cool enough to safely handle, place the brown paper on the affected area and hold it in place with cling film (not too tight).
5. Cover with a roller bandage and leave in place for 4 hours. Hedley & Shaw recommend reapplying fresh vinegar and brown paper twice daily.
These are prepared in a similar way to tinctures but vinegar is used as a carrier for the herb properties, rather than alcoholic spirits. Many herbs can be easily preserved in vinegars, a few favourites are Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Chamomile and Parsley but why not try wild herbs such as Chickweed, Catnip, Lemonbalm, Motherwort, Ramsons or Hyssop? Dried or fresh herbs can be used but vinegars are a great way to preserve a glut of fresh herbs so that they can be used throughout the darker months.
Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, is beneficial in its own right. It helps to build bones and has the ability to extract more minerals (such as calcium) from herbs than water. So preserving herbs in vinegar can provide a mineral rich preparation which is also very tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used in salad dressings, taken a tablespoon daily in a glass of water as a tonic, added to green vegetables and beans whilst they cook, used a flavouring in food or used in specific remedies. Adding a splash of vinegar to the cooking water of green vegetables dramatically increases available calcium.
To prepare, completely fill a glass container of any size with chopped fresh herb and then fill it completely again with vinegar. Seal (not with a metal lid), label and allow to sit (macerate) out of direct sunlight for between 2 and 6 weeks. After this time strain and bottle the herb vinegar in sterile dry containers. Use plastic lids or waxed paper held in place with strong rubber bands. For advice on sterilising see the post on Cough Syrup.
If you prefer to measure your herbs and vinegar there is a traditional recipe which recommends adding approximately 25g dried chopped herb or 50g chopped fresh herb to every 600ml of vinegar. Pure malt vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar can be used.
Herb Vinegar Hair Rinse When my sister and I were children, my mother would add a little lemon juice to our final hair rinse. It makes hair shine beautifully and is a natural conditioner (shampoos are slightly alkaline, conditioners slightly acidic). Vinegar hair rinses work in the same way and can be very beneficial to the scalp. I like to use apple cider vinegar when my scalp feels overloaded with hair products; it feels cleansing, cooling and calming. Surprisingly it doesn’t make hair smell of vinegar.
To prepare simply add 1 tablespoon herbal vinegar, apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice to about 250ml water. Pour the rinse over washed hair and massage into the scalp. Leave on for about 5 minutes and then rinse with plain water.
Sage vinegar is thought to darken hair,
Chamomile vinegar to lighten hair,
Parsley vinegar to relieve dandruff,
Rosemary vinegar to condition dry or falling hair
There are dozens of other uses for vinegar, I’d love to know of any which you or members of your family have used. Get in touch through the comments or contact boxes!