The rosaceae family of plants boasts hundreds of varieties of the pastel and jewel-toned flowers that are so popular as ornamental shrubs and climbers in the landscape. But roses are not only gorgeous as decoration and to be used for shows of affection between lovers, parts of the plant are also edible and have been used in cooking from the times of early man.
Most people are aware that rose hips, the bulbous fruit that appears when the bloom is spent, can be used to make tea. The flavorful, red fruit also makes a wonderful aromatic jelly and is a great nutritional source as it is high in the antioxidant Vitamin C which is known for its immune boosting properties and ability to repair blood vessels.
Rose hips can be harvested from any organic rose bush, wild or domestic, that has not been treated with chemical pesticides or synthetic sprays for at least an entire year of growing. Plants near major sources of traffic should not be foraged, as the steady assault form vehicles' exhaust can contaminate the shrubs and fruit as harmful pesticides do. Another reason these plants should be avoided is that government agencies frequently spray roadsides to keep down growth and you can never be sure of the spraying schedule.
Rose blossoms and petals can also be eaten or used to make rose flower water which is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and as a perfume and skin toner. You can distill your own rose water by collecting fresh, untreated petals and setting up a distilling arrangement on your stove top. Instructions are widely available on internet websites and by doing it yourself you can save hundreds of dollars on this pricey, natural extract.
Roses require consistent amounts of water to bloom, but too much can be damaging. Heavy mulching of rich, organic matter at the root crown helps the plants to build up disease and pest resistance. Try growing the beautiful rose with culinary uses in mind.
Roadside Rambles by Ila Hatter, Editor
Based on the original works by Marie B. Mellinger: Out of Old Fields and Roadside Rambles
2001 Cookbook Publishers, Inc.