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Roses - Edible Petals & Hips

Roses - Edible Petals & Hips

Roses are among the most beloved and most popular flowers in the world, but most people don't realise how tasty they are. 

Rose petals are strewn along the aisle at weddings, and poured into the baths of monarchs and movie stars. The flower was sacred to several ancient goddesses, including Isis and Aphrodite, and later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary. The rose is among the national emblems of the UK, the US, and several other lands, and it has been celebrated by poets, painters, song writers, and mystics for centuries.

Rose flowers and hips of the rose are as splendid as sources of food as they are beautiful symbols of love and passion. Flowers can be used as tea, and as flavouring ingredients in many food items. The red, juicy hips are very high in vitamin C, and can be made into delightful jams and jellies. French rose syrup, made from an extract of the petals, is used to add flavor to chocolate and marshmallow confectioneries. Other extracts have been used in perfumes, facial creams, and cosmetics.

One of the easiest and most delightful  things to make with rose is tea.   Rose tea is very healthy - no caffeine but lots of vitamins. Pick the petals, put them in a cup or a bowl, and pour hot water over them. You can remove the petals using a tea strainer if you wish. You can make the tea from rose petals alone, or you can mix them with other leaves. Either way, it is an elegant delight suitable for afternoon tea with the Queen (not in a plastic cup).

Rose Hips are technically not fruits but rather swollen, fleshy stems surrounding the “real” fruits, which are the dry things in the centre that most people would call seeds. The true seeds are inside the fruits. This might seem like useless botanical trivia, but it does have the practical advantage of making it easier to separate the juicy flesh from the dry and exceedingly crunchy seeds.

Rose Hips vary in size depending on the species, some as small as peas, others up to 4 cm across. Most of them are red, but some are dark purple, almost black. Each species tastes slightly different, but they mostly taste like apples A few of the cultivated roses do not produce hips because plant breeders have turned their reproductive parts into extra petals. So these cultivars set no seeds and cannot reproduce except by cuttings or grafting.

Rose hips make wonderful jams, jellies and preserves which are commonly sold commercially, but you can make your own. There are many recipes on-line. Jam and preserves you make from the fleshy part of the hips. Remove the seed/fruits first. Jelly is made from juice, so you can simply cut the hips in half, boil them, then strain out the remaining solid parts. Either way, you will need to add sugar and pectin. Commercial pectin packages contain recipes that you can adapt easily.

 Be sensible. Do not consume any food or drink made from directly plants at commercial nurseries or greenhouses. You don't know what they have been sprayed with and it's likely to be nasty pesticides that you do not want in your system. (Ask the vendor for advice to be sure.)

Also, be sure that these are real roses (Rosa sp.) you are dealing with. There are several other nefarious plants that have swiped the name, but are not so benign. For instance, the so-called Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is not even in the rose family at all, but rather in the buttercup family. It has an acrid taste and unpleasant effects on the body. 

A true rose can be recognized by the leaves. Nearly all the species have compound leaves, in other words, leaves with more than one blade. Connecting the leaf to the stem is a petiole (leaf-stalk). On a true rose, the petiole will have wings (stipules) attached to either side. Christmas roses and other imitations will not.

Images: Unsplash - Afrah | Kiwisoul - Shutterstock 

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