America’s favorite flower, the rose, has more than 200 species in its family, comes in a wide range of sizes and colors, and is edible. Yes, edible! In fact, roses have plenty of nutritional value. Containing vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus, roses are one of the top ten most edible flowers. As long as your rose plant has not been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals, it is safe to consume.
In some countries, the rose is considered an herb. Like most herbs, rose blooms taste like they smell. So, the better the smell, the better the taste. With so many varieties of roses, the flavors can go from sweet to sour, minty to apple, herbal to spicy, or no flavor to bitter. Surprisingly, traditional red roses are not the most flavorful. Roses that are yellow, pink or white have more flavor. David Austin roses and Rosa Rugosa are the most flavorful of roses.
When harvesting roses, it is best to pick them early in the day, ideally right after the morning dew has left. Cut the flowers at a 45 degree angle down to the lowest 5 or 7 clusters of leaves. Wash carefully and place them on a paper towel to dry. It is best to use the rose petals within 2 hours of harvesting them. You can also put the fresh cut flowers in a vase of room temperature water until you are ready to use them.
Leaves- use young rose leaves for best flavor. Pick them off with your fingers.
Rose Buds- these unopened flowers are very flavorful and best in the spring and summer. Use clippers to cut the entire bud off at the base when the bud is just about to open.
Rose Petals- Pull them off of the flower head before they are brown and begin to fall off. Do not use the whitish petals at the base of the bloom as they tend to be bitter.
Rose Hips- This is actually the seed pod from the rose plant. It is fruit-like and looks similar to a crabapple. Wait until it is fully orange or red in color and snip it off at the base. Slice the hip in half and remove the seeds.
It is best to use roses from your garden alone, as you know whether or not pesticides have been utilized. If you have used pesticides, wait several days after application before harvesting them. Rinse well before using for food preparation. Never use roses purchased from a florist for culinary uses. Oftentimes, many chemicals have been used on these plants.
Eating and Cooking with Roses
The leaf, bud, petal, and hip of rose plants are edible and can be used in many recipes. Depending on the variety of rose plants, flavors range from fruit like strawberries and green apples to herb-like minty and spicy. The more fragrant the flower, the more flavor it offers. Roses have been used in dishes such as soups, salads, candies, and condiments. Rose petals are delicious in desserts, jellies, syrups, butters, and teas. Rose hips have been used in jams, wines, teas, sauces and soups. The rose buds can be mixed in honey or teas. Rose leaves are often used to make tea similar to black tea. A simple internet search and rose recipes are endless.
Additional Use of Roses
Along with being edible, roses are used for many other purposes as well. Popular in perfumes, oils, and herbal medicines, roses are known to reduce anxiety and can provide anti-inflammatory relief. Dried rose petals are used to make rose water, potpourri, and are often used for a relaxing bath.
All parts of the rose, from the blossom to the leaves are non toxic to humans and safe to consume. Careful of the thorns on rose shrubs as they can easily scratch or poke you, causing minor skin irritations. Be aware of any chemicals or pesticides that may have been used on the rose shrubs, as they can be harmful if consumed.