For years I hauled a rosemary plant inside in the winter, back outside in the spring. That darn thing lived for years, and I was very attached to it. I had bought it at Union Square Market in New York city and carried it home to Connecticut on Metro North. Why I thought buying a large potted plant at a farmers’ market a train ride away from home was a good idea, I have no clue. But this was during a time when I didn’t have a vegetable garden, and a big pot of fragrant rosemary seemed like the next best thing. It had a very sunny windowsill (and a cool room temperature) during the winter, and it thrived, popping out those beautiful little blue flowers in early spring.

Alas, it died one winter. Not from powdery mildew or overwatering — nothing as simple as that. It died from neglect. My own. I was so sad and guilt-ridden that I couldn’t stand it. I moved from Connecticut. Surely Martha’s Vineyard would be a better place to grow rosemary. (There may have been one or two other reasons to move, but the dead plant was an apt metaphor.)

What I discovered is that on Martha’s Vineyard, there are lots of people scurrying in and out of their homes with rosemary plants at every change of season. What a swell place we live in! In fact, just this past week, I’ve had conversations with half a dozen friends — not to mention the entire newsroom at the Vineyard Gazette — about the rosemary issue.

The issue is this: Can rosemary live through the winter in the ground on Martha’s Vineyard as it does in other pockets of Zone 7 down the Eastern seaboard? We’re not asking for the hedge-like status that rosemary gains in California (seven-foot tall plants!), just a little willpower to get through the bad months.

I have been prowling (okay trespassing) around some private (abandoned) vegetable gardens in the last few weeks and I see rosemary plants that couldn’t possibly have grown that big over one season. But I myself have not had great luck with overwintering rosemary in the ground — even when my horticulturally obsessed father gave me a rosemary Arp, a variety that is supposed to be cold-hardy to minus 10 degrees. (Hill Hardy is another). I mulched it heavily with hay as instructed, but that was the winter of the biblical snowfall; by the time the snow melted, Arp was a puddle.

I decided to call my friend a few pages over (that would be Lynne Irons, the Vineyard Gardener) to confirm what I suspected — microclimates. After Lynne confessed that she had rosemary on the brain, too (we agreed to share the topic), and we discussed the week’s political events, she told me that she also keeps her rosemary in pots and brings the pots into her unheated greenhouse for the winter. She has better luck with them there than inside, where they don’t like the dry heat of the wood stove. But Lynne also said she has definitely seen plants around the Vineyard that overwinter in the ground. They are usually in protected areas with southern exposures, often up against a stone wall. We have so many pockets of mini-climates all over the Island that you’d have to use the trial and error method to find out if you’ve got a spot that works.

Our darling Mediterranean herb (Rosmarinus, which translates from the Latin to “dew of the sea” — so romantic!) is, in fact, a bit temperamental. It needs good drainage and does not like to be too wet. It needs good air circulation (which can be a problem inside), but it doesn’t love being battered about by strong cold winds. Inside, it is susceptible to powdery mildew, which can make your plant look like it has dandruff, and worse, like its hair is falling out when the brown brittle needles fall to the ground. A spray of baking soda, water, and a few drops of liquid soap can keep powdery mildew from spreading if you catch it early, but start by keeping the plant away from forced air heating and in a cool, sunny spot like a porch. Also, it can get pot-bound and should be transplanted to a bigger pot each year.

With rosemary being so persnickety, you might think, why bother to fuss with it at all in winter — why not just grow it as an annual in the summer?

Because winter is rosemary’s season in the kitchen.

Ironically, the powerful oils in rosemary can overwhelm many delicate summer dishes (the exception is most anything grilled), but they provide just what’s needed to cut through the richness of a roast pork loin, to brighten the flavor of a pot of beans or a winter soup. The magic trio of rosemary, lemon and garlic is a roast chicken’s best friend. Braised chicken loves rosemary, black olives, red wine or vinegar, and some of those put-up summer tomatoes. A leg of lamb roasted on a bed of rosemary and studded with slivers of garlic is perfection. (And this from the vegetarian.)

And for vegetable lovers, what is a pan of roasted potatoes without chopped fresh rosemary? (If you, for any reason, doubt the affinity of rosemary for potatoes, go buy yourself a bag of rosemary-sea salt French fries from the Food Truck, outside the Home Port restaurant and at the Airport Business Park this winter, as well as the Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.) Or roasted cauliflower, for that matter. Rosemary is one of the few herbs that can stand up to the heat of the oven and come out with a bit of fragrance intact, so it’s a no-brainer to add interest to a weeknight mix of whatever vegetables you’d like to roast. It pairs especially well with the earthiness of mushrooms too. (One tip: use a very sharp knife to chop rosemary; a dull blade will just bruise it, causing the oils to become bitter. You don’t need to pulverize rosemary to release the oils — just chop it roughly.)

You can make a quick infused oil by heating chopped rosemary, olive oil, and a few red pepper flakes until just simmering. (Store in the fridge for about a week). Or make a rosemary compound butter with minced olives and orange zest. Use it to stuff under the skin of a chicken, top a seared steak, or to toss with sautéed veggies.

One of my favorite reasons for keeping a pot of rosemary inside during the winter is to have the option of cutting a short sprig or two (without spending $4 at the grocery) to throw into a dish of slow-sautéed vegetables (like this slow-sauteed green beans with shiitakes and prosciutto). As the vegetables slowly brown and get meltingly tender, the rosemary sprigs give off a gentle bit of flavor.

If all that isn’t enough for you, keep in mind that rosemary has been found to help improve memory and concentration, to relieve muscle aches, to decrease inflammation, and to have both antiseptic and antibacterial properties. In aromatherapy, it is used to relieve stress. Now I know why I held on to my plant so dearly all those years.