Rosemary and lavender are two common herbs that grow in a similar plant. While they can get mixed up easily, they have very different uses.
Rosemary and Lavender are two common aromatic herbs that look and taste similar. They are often confused with each other but vary in quite a few ways. While they both grow on shrubs and in the same growing conditions, their use for culinary and medicinal purposes are their key differences.
Originally Published On: February 3, 2023
Rosemary: rosmarinus officinalis
Lavender: lavandula angustifolia
Both Rosemary and Lavender are plants in the mint family from the Mediterranean region of the world. They have similar needle-like leaves and colorful flowers on their plants and grow on bushes. You’ll find that the stem of the rosemary plant tends to be thicker than the lavender plant. Rosemary leaves are typically a darker green color whereas lavender leaves are lighter and sometimes have a hint of a blue or grey color to them.
The main difference between the plants is in the flower. Lavender flowers are found at the ends of the stems. They don’t have leaves around them and are concentrated in the extremities of the plants. Rosemary flowers grow within the bush and can be found amongst the leaves of the rosemary plants. Both plants will bloom in the late summer months.
Even though the plants look similar, they vary greatly in their taste.
Rosemary has a more woody, piney flavor to it but can also be bitter depending on how it’s used. You’ll notice it’s a bit more of an oily taste as well and is very strong when used in dishes. A little bit of rosemary goes a long way when you are adding it to a meal.
Lavender doesn’t have that piney taste to it but is more light and floral in flavor. Lavender more closely resembles its mint family relatives with subtle tastes of mint in there as well.
The culinary uses of rosemary and lavender are some of the most important differences between the plants. Both are culinary herbs that you’ll want to have on hand to add delicious flavor to your recipes.
Rosemary is more suited for savory dishes. Because of its woody flavor, you’ll want to use it in oily dishes. Rosemary goes very well with meat and stews. It’s very popular to add to savory recipes made with vegetables, beef, and seafood. I have also used rosemary in dressings and spreads. One of my favorites is either fresh rosemary or rosemary oil in a bread dipping oil.
Lavender, with its sweeter flavor, is more suited for sweet dishes. I’ve seen lavender used when making cakes and similar baked goods. But, the sweet taste can also help cut through more bitter flavors and lighten up things such as roasted chicken or lamb. You can also use lavender essential oil in your recipes to replace the dried lavender. When cooking with pure essential oils, a little bit goes a long way.
It is possible to substitute Rosemary for Lavender and vice versa. While it isn’t ideal, it works. Since rosemary is stronger than lavender, you will want to reduce the amount of rosemary a bit. This will work in savory dishes, but I don’t recommend subbing rosemary for lavender if it’s a sweet dish.
Personally, I’ve cooked with rosemary more than I have with lavender. Therefore, the recipes below using rosemary are from my recipe collection while the lavender recipes were provided by fellow food bloggers.
- Rosemary Steaks with Red Pepper Feta Relish
- Grilled Chicken with Leeks and Rosemary
- Chicken and Carrots with Rosemary and Lemon Sauce
- Lemon Rosemary Tilapia
- Lavender Coconut Tigernut Flour Cookies (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo)
- Blackberry Lavender Macarons
- Lavender Lemonade
- Honey Lavender Cupcakes
- The Lavender Empress: A Gin Sour Cocktail
- Lavender Lemon Biscotti
You’ll find varying information about the nutritional value of rosemary and lavender. The nutritional value changes whether it’s dried or fresh, and can vary based on which species of the plant is used. I compared both on the LiveStrong website for information.
Fresh Rosemary: “A teaspoon of dried rosemary contains 4 calories and a negligible amount of fat. Fresh rosemary has 1 calorie and only a trace amount of fat per teaspoon. A teaspoon of dried rosemary contains 0.5 gram of fiber, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s 2 percent of the 25 grams women need each day in just that tiny amount. It’s 1 percent of the 38 grams of fiber men require on a daily basis. A teaspoon of fresh rosemary contains 0.1 gram of fiber.”
Fresh Lavender: “Including lavender in your meal plan gives you access to a low-calorie, low-fat food with a floral scent. A 100 g serving of lavender introduces 49 calories into your diet as well as 1 g of fat. Lavender is typically not consumed alone, so factor these calories into the foods to which you add lavender. The fat in lavender is negligible in your meal plan — the maximum recommended intake of this macronutrient is 44 to 78 g per day if you follow a 2,000 calorie meal.”
Herbs have been used in medicine for thousands of years. You can find a plethora of information about how each has been used for a variety of ailments and medicinal uses all over the world.
Rosemary is full of antioxidants and manganese. We need manganese to help with our overall metabolic health. It helps to form blood clots which is essential to healing injuries. Some clinical trials have also shown that the carnosix and rosmarinic acids found in rosemary have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. These are all essential to a healthy immune system that can help fight off other infections. It’s also been shown that rosemary can help with anxiety and stress, although more research needs to be done on this.
Lavender is known for its relaxing and stress-relieving properties. It’s often used in bath oils, nighttime routines, and as an air freshener because of its floral calming scent. The relaxing properties of lavender typically help people with sleeping issues by either diffusing the oil into the air or adding a few drops to the pillow before bed. Lavender also has antioxidant properties which can aid in wound healing as well as other dermatological uses. Lavender oil has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate as well as help with hair loss by promoting more growth.
Grow Your Own
Depending on where you live, you may be able to grow rosemary or lavender (or both) in outdoor herb gardens. You’ll have to check the USDA zones to see what growing zone you are in as well as the growing season for these plants. For example, I live in a very warm climate so we have a longer growing season than many areas. Because their needs are so similar, you can grow rosemary and lavender in the same area. Just make sure they have enough space to flourish. For both plants, you are best to start with a starter plant. Seeds can take up to 2-3 years to grow into new plants big enough to start to harvest. That’s a long time to wait for your home-grown fresh herbs!
Rosemary and lavender will grow well in raised planters, indoor herb gardens, or in-ground herb gardens. If you are planting outside, you have to wait until the last chance of frost passes. Again, this is why you need to know your zones. Where I live, that’s typically early spring, but for many places, it’s closer to late spring or even early summer.
If you live somewhere with harsh winter weather, you are best to have these planted in pots that you can bring inside during the winter months. Rosemary and lavender are perennial plants, so they will continue to grow over years as long as they are taken care of properly.
Both plants will want to be somewhere they receive full sun for optimal growth. In North America, this typically means you want them to pbe planted in an area that gets the afternoon sun on the south side of the home.
Make sure you have a rich well-drained soil for growing rosemary and lavender. If you have aged compost that you can mix in the soil, that’s best for both plants. When starting plants, make sure they are spaced out enough for growth. Rosemary needs to be planted about 2-3 feet apart if you are using starter plants. Lavender needs about 12-18 inches of clearance when planting. While they can be in the same area, spread them out as needed.
Make sure your plants are in well-draining soil as they don’t want to be inundated with water. The best way to know when to water is when the soil is dry at the top two inches or so. You don’t want to drown the plant by overwatering.
When you harvest both rosemary and lavender, make sure to never take away more than one-third of the plant. That could shock it and stunt its growth or kill the plant. To harvest rosemary you’ll want to use sharp gardening shears to cut off pieces at near the base of the shrub. Lavender can be harvested in the same way once the stems are long enough to use.
Both plants can be dried by using a drying rack, a dehumidifier, or by hanging upside down in bundles.
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