2 min read * by Dev Rivers
Chances are you’ve heard the old poem: roses are red; violets are blue… But did you know they are edible too? Roses are a staple in many gardens and offer a beautiful and delicious way to take your edible landscape to a whole new foodie level. While they have long been used as a centerpiece on the table, this month let’s look at how roses and their fruit, called rosehips, can be a centerpiece in your dishes as well.
One beautiful thing about the rose plant is that every part is edible including the leaves, buds, petals and rosehips. This means that you can enjoy them in a multitude of ways and either add a delicate nuance or a zingy burst of flavor, depending on which part you use. While all roses are edible, some have better flavor than others. It is said that the more fragrant the rose, the more flavorful it will be. So, follow your nose when it comes to picking the right rose for your foodie creations.
If you are growing roses for culinary use, one good choice would be the beach rose (Rosa rugosa), known to be very hardy and incredibly disease resistant in the garden. Many old roses and heirloom varieties are delicious as well. Damask roses (Rosa damascena), often used to make rose water and rose infused oils, and Apothecary roses (Rosa gallica) are both desirable for their distinct flavors. For some reason, any pink or yellow variety and some white roses are the best choices when it comes to cooking. Red roses tend to lack fragrance and flavor, so save those flowers for your centerpiece!
What red roses might be lacking in flavor is certainly overcome by red-colored rosehips, the fruit of the rose plant, produced after the blooms fade. While most rosehips are a red or orange color, some can even be a dark purple. The little fruits are packed with vitamin C, high in A, E, and B vitamins, and boast a long list of important minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. The health benefits of rose hips are thought to include lower cholesterol, immunity support (by stimulating white blood cells), improved circulation and control of diabetes.
Rosehips offer a tart flavor that is a wonderful addition in jams, syrups and fruit leathers. You can also dry them and then steep in hot water for a bright and slightly sweet tasting cup of tea. The one thing to be cautious of when using rose hips in the kitchen is that the seeds are covered in fine, little hairs that are indigestible. It is best to remove the seeds before processing. Autumn and early winter are a wonderful time to look for rose hips in the wild and you can expect them to be even sweeter if you pick them after the first frost.
Rose petals can be picked when your plant is blooming. The best time of day to harvest them is usually mid-morning, after the dew has dried and before the heat of the day. You will want to cut off the little white part at the bottom of each petal before use. This has a bitter taste and it will likely throw off the flavor of your dish.
Roses are typically used in sweet dishes and pair nicely with honey and fruits like apricots, strawberries and raspberries. Try them mixed into granola or added to lemonades and iced tea blends. Spice mixes that include rose also make excellent dry rubs for poultry, lamb and other game meats. The North African spice mix, ras el hanout, often combines rose petals with other savory ingredients like coriander, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, clove and pepper.
Have fun with taking this plant from garden to table and let us know how you are using your roses and rosehips in the Foodies in Switzerland Facebook group!
Here are a couple of ideas to spark your culinary creativity:
Chop up fragrant rose petals and mix into softened butter.
You can add a little almond extract for another level of flavour or a bit of local honey for extra sweetness.
Pack the mixed butter into ramekins and chill until ready to serve.
This butter is an excellent complement to fruity muffins, biscuits or pancakes.
2 cups, approx. 500mL White Vinegar
1 cup/240mL Fragrant Rose Petals
Pack rose petals into a heatproof jar, such as a canning jar. Heat vinegar on the stove in a saucepan just until boiling. Pour the vinegar over the flowers in the jar. Allow to cool, then cover and store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks. The mixture will take on the colour of the roses. Strain the flowers out and then use the infused vinegar for salad dressings.
Columnist, foodie, Permaculture Consultant
Dev Rivers is a certified kitchen garden & edible landscape consultant & the owner of Invincible Gardens.
She helps city & suburban families to connect with nature & grow their own food with more joy & less work using sustainable, organic gardening principles.
Her mission is to teach aspiring gardeners how to live abundantly from edible landscapes that heal our planet, fill the pantry & nourish the soul.
Dev is creating the EdibleLandscapes column for EdibleSwitzerland.
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