Jun 18, 2012

Roses - More than Just Beautiful

Old fashioned or wild roses are easy to care for and more nutritious than modern hybrids.
There are few people who don't appreciate the beauty of roses, but did you know they also have important nutritional and medicinal purposes? That's right! You can eat roses! Many gardeners are put off by the plant's reputation for needing lots of pampering, but the fact is, only modern hybrids are time consuming to grow. Older varieties and heirlooms, which are better for eating and medicinal purposes anyway, are a cinch to grow. They were, after all, once wild and tenacious.

The most commonly used parts of the rose are the petals and the hips (or seed pods). Rose petals are rich in vitamin C, carotene, the B vitamins, and vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and copper, although the amount of nutrition varies depending upon the type of rose being eaten. The best choice for vitamin C is the dog rose (R. canina). Pick them in the morning after any dew has dried off, selecting only the freshest blooms. Cut off the white part of the petal, near the base, because it can be unpleasantly bitter.

Rose hips.
Rose hips appear once the flowers are spent. They turn red in the late fall, usually after the first frost, and are perfect for picking. (Some modern varieties of roses never produce rose hips; also, some roses never produce hips because gardeners cut back stems after the flowers die. Avoid doing this; the latest research suggests it doesn't actually make the plant produce more blooms, anyway. You can also wait to prune rose bushes until early spring.)

Fresh rose hips are a superb source of vitamin C; they have 20 to 40 percent more vitamin C than oranges (depending upon the variety), 25 percent more iron and vitamin A than oranges, 28 percent more calcium than oranges, and are a great source of vitamin E, manganese, bioflavanoids, and B-complex vitamins.

Rose leaves are mostly used for tea.
Rose leaves are also edible. They can be dried and used for tea that tastes similar to black tea. You may pick them any time of year, but they are supposed to taste best if picked before the plant blooms. Be sure not to over-pick from any one plant, since it can weaken, and perhaps kill, the rose bush.

Rose Petal Recipes:

Rose Salad: Add fresh rose petals to any salad.

Rose Petal Sugar: In a glass jar, layer sugar and rose petals, using about ¼ cup lightly packed petals and 1 cup sugar overall. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark location for about a week. Remove the petals; sugar will be lumpy. Use in baking, tea, etc.

Sugared Rose Petals: With a pastry brush, gently coat rose petals on both sides with beaten egg white. Arrange petals on a cooling rack and sprinkle with sugar on both sides. Dry in a cool, dry location until hardened. Store layered with waxed paper in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Makes a gorgeous addition to cake and cupcake decorations.

Rose Petal Vinegar: Fill a jar with a snug metal lid with fresh rose petals. Bring some apple cider vinegar to a simmer, then pour over the rose petals in the jar. Put the lid on and allow to sit in a cool, dark location for one to six weeks. Strain. Great for soothing bug bites, using as a hair rinse, or for salad dressings.

Rose Petal Jelly:
3 cups of good clean spring water, the juice of 1 lemon or about 2 tablespoons full, 2 cups of granulated sugar, 1 box (packet) of pectin or 3 ozs of liquid pectin, petals from 6 roses or about 2 cups worth. (this could be 1 cup of frozen and reconstituted petals)

In a blender or food processor, pulse 3 cups water and 2 cups lightly packed rose petals until chopped. Pour the water/petal mixture into a saucepan placed over medium heat. Bring to a boil, turning off the heat immediately afterward. Allow to steep for half an hour. Strain with a fine strainer. Discard the petals. Strain again. Place the liquid into a clean saucepan; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 3 oz. liquid pectin. Stir until sugar dissolves. Boil for 10 minutes. Pour into jelly jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Drying rose hips.

Rose Hip Recipes:
Rose Hip Stew: Add freshly prepared rose hips to soups or stews.

Rose Hip Tea: Steep two tablespoons of fresh, chopped rose hips in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Or, use two teaspoons of dry rose hips and steep 10 to 15 minutes.

Rose Hip Syrup: Place fresh rose hips in a saucepan and barely cover them with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until soft, about 10 or 15 minutes. Cool. Strain with a fine sieve. In a glass jar, pour one part honey to two parts of rose hip liquid. Stir and refrigerate. Keeps for about two weeks; use on pancakes or ice cream. 

Rose Hip Jelly:  Pour 2 cups rose hips and 2 cups water into a pan and place over medium heat. Cook until tender. Strain through a fine sieve. Add 1 cup sugar to every cup of pulp. In a clean pan, cook until thickens to the consistency of jam. Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Learn more about rose hips in my 2009 post on this topic.

Rose Leaf Recipes:

Rose Leaf Tea: Dehydrated freshly picked rose leaves at 95 degrees F. until completely dry. Crumble the leaves into a tea ball, pour boiling water over, and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. This leaf tea is traditionally used to reduce fevers, but is also a tasty substitute for decaf black tea.

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