Roses (Rosa species) are probably the best known of all edible flowers and with the rain we’ve had they are bigger and better than ever this year. If you are picking rose petals to use in cooking then wait until they are fully open and just past their best. Cut the whole flower from the bush and then pull the petals from the flower head.
Roses have been revered in cultures from Asia to Egypt, England to Iran. Some of my favourite roses are Damask roses (R. x damascena), which have been grown for their intense perfume for thousands of years. Most are softly pink or white and flower prolifically in spring. Some repeat flower in autumn. They are tough, disease-resistant plants that grow to more than 1 metre high and 1 metre across. They are fine in any reasonable soil with some added compost, needing only full sun and to be dead-headed during the flowering period. Prune to shape in mid winter and remove any dead or diseased stems. These exceptionally fragrant roses are eaten in salads and sweet dishes, used to make rose water as well as perfume, rose oil and attar of roses.
Other scented roses are also used, as long as they have a scent they will lend their fragrance and flavour to food. Like damask roses, these too are best suited to sweet dishes such as fruit desserts, jams and jellies. Roses with the strongest perfume also have the strongest flavour. When adding rose petals to any dish, pull off the small white piece at the base as this can be slightly bitter.
Note: Never eat bought bunches of flowers because most are grown using a range of pesticides to ensure they look as perfect as possible.
Rose petal and strawberry jam
This jam recipe is one of my favourites and it's great that both the strawberries and rose petals are fresh and ready to pick at the same time. Dark red petals work best for this jam – the colour of the petals blending beautifully with the red of the strawberries.
- 2½ cups fragrant dark red rose petals
- 1½ cups strawberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- Small jars with lids
1. Pull the white bases from the rose petals and discard.
2. Cut or pull the hull from each strawberry and cut each strawberry in half.
3. Put the water and sugar into a saucepan, add the rose petals, strawberries, lemon juice and cream of tartar.
4. Bring slowly to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly until the setting point is reached (at least 20 minutes).
6. Pour the jam into clean hot jars and seal.
For simple strawberry jam sans rose petals, try Annabel Langbein's recipe.
By: Penny Woodward
First published: November 2016