Often seen as beautiful, fragrant & merely ornamental, roses are overlooked when it comes to health and culinary uses in the modern day kitchen.
If you look to the past however, roses were a much sought after ingredient in most kitchen and home apothecaries. It was once common place to find rose waters, extracts, syrups & tonics tucked away on pantry shelves.
Did you know that long before vanilla extract became common place in the kitchen people used flower essences to enhance the flavours of baked good and sweets? Rose water is commonly listed as an ingredient in vintage cook books. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that vanilla became affordable and started to take the place of rose water.
We grow a lot of roses and like our ancestors we bring them into the kitchen for culinary enjoyment. For us, making use of ingredients that grow around us is an essential part of our lifestyle. Vanilla is not readily available and it's becoming remarkably expensive to purchase. We no longer buy it and have discovered that we don't really miss it. Who needs pricey vanilla when you have so many other options growing right in your own garden?
About Rose Petals & Rose Hips
Both the rose petals and the rose hips are edible. Nutritionally the rose hip is the powerhouse of the rose. They are a nutrient dense super food rich in vitamins, minerals (especially vitamin C) and antioxidants. The rose petals although less potent in goodness than the hip, still contain vitamin C and of course they offer that alluring, uplifting aroma.
Culinary Uses for both Rose Petals and Rose Hips
- Loose leaf tea blends
- Herbal extracts
- Simple Syrups
- Dessert flavouring
- Cake Decorating
- Infused Vinegars
- Other beverages
- Turkish Delights and other candy
- Flavoured sugars
Recipes & Inspiration
In 'The Allinson Vegetarian Cookery Book (1915)' You'll find reference to rose water many times. You can read the digitized version along with many other vintage ebooks free HERE.
BREAD PUDDING (STEAMED) Recipe from The Allinson Vegetarian Cookery Book
3/4 lb. of breadcrumbs, 1 wine glassful of rosewater, 1 pint of milk, 3 oz. of ground almonds, sugar to taste, 4 eggs well beaten, 1 oz. of butter (oiled). Mix all the ingredients, and let them soak for 1/2 an hour. Turn into a buttered mould and steam the pudding for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
I haven't made this bread pudding recipe yet but this Chocolate Beetroot Cake garnished with roses could easily be enhanced with a few splashes of rose water in the batter.
Vintage Recipe for Rose Water (1841)
Gather fragrant, full-blown roses, on a dry day—pick off the leaves, and to each peck of them put a quart of water. Put the whole in a cold still, and set the still on a moderate fire—the slower they are distilled, the better will be the rosewater. Bottle the water as soon as distilled.
Modern Simple Rose Water Recipe
Pour 2 cups boiling water over as handful of rose petals and let steep until the colour drains out of the petals. Strain when cool. Store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator, it should keep for up to one month.
Rose Petal Lemonade
- 2 cups rose petals
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 5 cups water
Steep the rose petals and honey in the hot water. Let cool. Strain out the rose petals and add the lemon juice. Keep refrigerated.
Rose Infused Vinegar
- Pack a glass jar with as many rose petals or rose hips as you can collect. Be sure to sift through them to remove any debris or insects that you may have inadvertently collected. Do not wash the petals. Wash and remove the tops and tails of rose hips.
- Cover the petals or hips with apple cider vinegar. Let the mixture steep for several weeks before straining. You can add some honey for sweetness if desired.
Strawberry Rose Jam
Strawberry Rose Jam is vibrant and bursting with summer flavour. This recipe takes a gentle approach to processing the fruit. It takes a little bit more time to create this jam but is worth the extra bit of time! Once you have tried this technique and whole new level of preserving jams and jellies will open up to you. Find the recipe here!
Rose Petal Jelly
This rose petal jelly is lightly floral with and bright with a hint of lemon. Serve it on fresh buttered bread or drizzle it on top of vanilla ice cream (I like to shave a few slivers of chocolate on top) . We often have fruit & yogurt smoothies and a spoonful of this jam adds a nice flavour. Get the recipe here!
Rose Petal Simple Syrup
Capture the flavours of of the season with this easy to make rose petal syrup. This concentrate is ideal for making pitchers of fruity lemonade. You can drizzle this rose petal syrup over ice cream or yoghurt with a few shavings of chocolate for a simple yet sensational dessert. It also makes a wonderful flavouring for cocktails and sodas. Get the recipe here!
Rose Hip Wine
We've just recently enjoyed a bottle (a little young still) and it was quite delightful: dry, mildly fruity with a vanilla undertone. For those of you that worry about making things that taste "unpleasantly floral" don't worry! No one would ever guess this wine came from a rose bush. Get the recipe here!
How to Harvest, Dry & Store Rose Hips (for tea, culinary and medicinal uses)
Its a bit of prickly work to harvest rosehips but it's well worth the effort. They are a nutrient dense super food rich in vitamins, minerals (especially vitamin C) and antioxidants. Get the directions here!
Rose Mint Tea
Here's a photograph of my rose mint herbal tea. Growing edible plants and herbs, drying them and creating beautiful medicine, food and skincare is probably what I like to do more than anything else. I find the whole process deeply satisfying not to mention therapeutic. Learn More Here
Intriguing 18th Century Recipe For Spice Brandy Using Rose or Peach (Author Unknown).
Put into a jar French brandy, and rose or peach leaves, in the proportion of a quart of the former to half a pint of the latter. Let them steep together, till the strength is obtained from the leaves —then turn off the brandy, squeeze the leaves dry, throw them away, and put fresh leaves to the brandy. Continue to go through the above process until the brandy is strongly impregnated with the leaves—then turn the brandy off clear, and bottle it. Keep it corked tight. Spice brandy is very nice to season cakes, puddings, and mince pies.
There are so many recipes and uses for roses! Too many to list and I certainly have not tried them all yet! Rose petal jam, extracts, cakes, tarts, pies and so many other things haven't even made it onto this list! Explore and experiment and I am sure you will be as delighted as we are with the culinary wonders of the rose.
Types of Roses
There are many wonderful varieties of roses, each with their special attributes. Some varieties that are excellent for culinary use include: Damask, Rugosa, Gallica & Dog roses. No matter what kind of rose you intend to use, if you are going to use them for culinary or skincare be sure it hasn't been sprayed with any chemicals.
Rugosa Roses (R. rugosa)
I am a fan of Rugosa Roses (R. rugosa) The rugosa rose comes in a wide variety of colours including pastels: white, pink and lilac and more vivid hues like magenta and deep red. It is a hardy shrub that can tolerate a wide range of climates and is resistant to mildew and black spot. It suckers quite readily and can get out of hand but if you want a lot of roses and nice big rose hips, this is one rose won't disappoint.
In my next post on roses I'll cover some of the delightful apothecary products you can make with roses: astringents, tonics, syrups, soaks and so much more! As with many all natural recipes, they often blend over from kitchen to apothecary which is just the way I like it because what you put on and in your body matters equally!
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