by Jiling Lin
Smell a rose. Really stick your face into it. Notice its intoxicating perfume, how it draws you in, makes you feel. Notice its velvety petals. Open your mouth and hold one of those petals in it. Breathe that aroma into your mouth, into your body. Lick the rose petal, then slowly begin eating it. Notice its aroma, how it courses through your body as you imbibe this plant that has been associated with love, the heart, pleasure and medicine through cultures all over the world, from ancient times ’til present moments.
All parts of the Rose plant (Rosa spp.) are useful: buds, petals, leaves, hips, seeds. I particularly enjoy the buds, petals and hips. The leaves are more astringent, whereas the buds and petals are calming, cooling, slightly astringent and balancing. The hips contain more vitamin C and antioxidants and have a tangy flavor. Buds may be collected at the start of the rose season, early spring or late summer depending on your location. Petals are best collected right after the flower’s been at the height of its bloom, when it’s already been pollinated and the petals are already preparing to fall off. I bring my gathering bag right under the flower, open my hand wide, then just brush the petals in. Hips can be gathered fresh or dried on the plant. This is a gentle yet powerful plant that is beneficial as both food and medicine, often abundantly plentiful and highly enjoyable. Here’s a few of my favorite preparations:
Buds, petals and hips all dry to make elegant teas and can also be combined with other dried plants for more complex tea formulas. Buds and petals have a gentle sweetness and help unify any tea formula, especially when one is in need of soothing, relaxing, loving energy. Also wonderful used in a potpourri or bath.
Fill a glass jar with fresh and clean rose petals, then fill again with honey. Honey is antibacterial, so if the petals are not too moist, then this preparation can last indefinitely. Store in a cool, dark place. Useful for superficial wounds and burns or can be used as you would any usual honey. Decadent.
Layer rose petals and your sugar of choice atop each other in a glass jar until the jar is full. Let sit. If the petals are dry, then this turns into a delicious rose candy. If the petals are moist, then it turns into a candy-like syrup. If you add water (my mom’s favorite preparation), then it becomes a delicious rose wine. If making rose wine or any other fermentation, just make sure that all of your tools are sterilized first to prevent unwanted mold growth. Otherwise, enjoy.
Rose petals make for a lighter tasting, highly aromatic jam. Rose hips create a sweet and sour jam. Try both! Just boil down the petals or hips in water until the water is reduced to half. Add enough sugar that it tastes just slightly (or very) overly sweet. Have your sterilized tools prepared beforehand, then can it up! Enjoy through the winter. If making rose hip jam, try to de-seed the hips before heating them, as after heating they become very sticky and difficult to work with. I like using fresh hips for this. I cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then plop the fleshy de-seeded bodies right into my cooking pot. Use this jam as you would any other jam. It tastes absolutely amazing and can really help brighten up a long cold winter or even just a tough day.
Fill a jar with freshly wilted rose petals. Place the jar into a pot of water creating a double-boiler type situation. (Or just use a crock pot.) Heat it all up, gradually filling the bottle with coconut oil, which melts with the surrounding heat. Let sit for a few hours, then strain. Delicious eaten, used as a decadent personal lubricant, or combined in other recipes such as chocolates or other sweets.
Fill a jar (notice a pattern here?) with fresh rose petals. Fill again with apple cider vinegar so that it covers the petals. Let sit for 2 weeks, then strain out the petals. This vinegar is delicious with all the wonderful aforementioned rosy properties. It is also helpful as a wonderful sunburn remedy or toner.
Roses are miscible in a variety of menstrua, meaning that they go well into lots of different things, even being adaptable to different people. Other rose-related project possibilities include rose petal tincture, rose elixir, rose hydrosol, rose glycerite, rose hip seed oil, rose water and rose petal chocolates. Get to know your local rose varieties. Experiment with these and your own preparations, and if nothing else, just spend time with them: pick them and place them around your home, admire them, and always remember to stop and smell, touch, see, feel and taste the roses.