When I was a kid, growing roses just seemed silly. Why would you spend all that time on something you couldn’t even eat? I was practical then as now, but now I know that roses are not only edible, they’re delicious!
The main problem with eating roses is that they’re a heavy spray crop. My grandmother’s roses were spectacularly beautiful, but you’d smell the whiff of pesticides long before you were close enough to smell the actual roses. That’s because many new varieties of specialty roses are fragile, and they need to be pampered to live. Old school rose varieties grow like weeds, and those are the ones I grow myself.
I love crops I can ignore and then still come back to eat later. No spraying, no tending, no problem.
Where to Buy Edible Roses
If you’re going to eat roses, you have to be 100% certain that they’re unsprayed. Since they’re not generally considered a “food” item by pesticide manufacturers, they’re sometimes sprayed with a particularly nasty cocktail of toxins.
Harvest unsprayed roses from your own yard, or lacking that, buy a pack of organic edible rose buds from a supplier growing them expressly for eating.
What Do Roses Taste Like?
How does a rose taste you might wonder? Exactly how it smells: heavenly.
Most of our sense of taste is in our nose, and your tongue can only taste 5 simple things: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. The rest of our sense of “flavor” comes through our nose, and roses have a wonderful smell.
Eating roses as they are right off the bush can be pleasant, but it’s lacking. That has a great fragrance for the nose, but they’re lacking in the 5 basic flavors so they don’t really please the tongue. Add in a bit of sweet, and then you’re in business.
Roses combine wonderfully with middle eastern flavors like pistachios and saffron, and they’re simply divine paired with chocolate, like in these Chocolate Rose Pots de Creme…
Using Roses Medicinally
Beyond just eating them, roses are used in herbal medicine preparations. According to Herbstalk, roses are “A wonderful nervine, great for uplifting the mood and alleviating depression, rose also has antispasmodic, aphrodisiac and sedative qualities, as well as being anti-inflammatory. Rose helps regulate menstruation as well as stimulate the digestion.”
They’re also commonly used in herbal preparations for treating grief, alongside other emotional support herbs like linden.
Besides the blossoms themselves, rose hips are well known for being high in vitamin C, but they also have other medicinal uses. According to Mother Earth Living, rosehips also contain “vitamins A, B3, D, and E, rosehips are an effective nutritive — especially helpful during the long cold and flu season. Rosehips are also a strong antioxidant…[and] their anti-inflammatory nature helps soothe all kinds of pain, including arthritis, gout, and sore muscles.”
For any of these purposes, they’re taken as a herbal supplement, flower essence or essential oil. Herbalists have long recognized that whole herb medicines are often more effective than extracts, and since roses also happen to be tasty…that’s just one more reason to eat your roses.
Rose Cordial, Liqueur & Cocktails
One of the simplest ways to taste roses is a rose cordial, which is basically a rose syrup. Bring some water to a boil, and then turn it off. Add fresh rose petals, sugar and a bit of citric acid. The citric acid balances the sweet from the sugar and creates fun for the tongue, while the scent of the roses adds complexity of flavor for the nose. I make this as a syrup and then add a bit of sparkling water to make rose soda for my kids, and they love it.
It can also be made with alcohol as a liqueur, and then it has a longer shelf life but it’s much less kid-friendly.
Beyond just a simple cordial or rose syrup, there are countless ways to incorporate the flavors into fancy cocktails.
- Rose and Cucumber Collins
- Cardamom Rose Cocktail
- Elderflower Rose Gimlet
- English Rose Winter Cocktail
- Heartbreaker Rose Syrup Cocktail
Cookies are another simple way to let the flavors of rose petals really shine through. The rich buttery flavor plays well against a floral background, and there’s just enough sugar to excite the tongue.
Pistachio rosewater cookies take the flavors in an Indian or middle eastern direction, and they include both rose syrup and rose petals. The same middle eastern flavors are present in these Cardamom and Rosewater tea cookies, and this gluten-free version of the same tea cookies. Rose flavored valentines cookies seem altogether appropriate, and I’d much rather eat a rose than have a bunch sitting in a vase in the corner. These pink rose meringues would work wonderfully too.
The simplest cookie that really allows the rose flavors to stand front and center is rose shortbread, and even better it’s made with real roses rather than just rose water.
The pillowy texture of cake and the rich icing are a great base for delicate floral flavors. This pistachio rose semolina cake takes things to a middle eastern direction again and combines roses with pistachios for a classic taste. Similarly, this Persian love cake is a wonderful idea, adding in a bit of cardamom and orange flower water too.
I like the idea of this Rose Cake for Marie Antionette that one writer made in honor of her trip to the Château de Versailles. If you’re going to say “let them eat cake” then you might as well feed them a royal rose flavored cake.
For a classic birthday celebration cake, I’m excited about this Rose Rhubarb Layer Cake. Tart rhubarb curd between layers of moist cake soaked in rose syrup…mmmm. I’m making this as soon as rhubarb comes in season!
Rose Ice Cream
If you’re going to have rose cake, you might as well have rose ice cream to go with it. I’ve made dandelion ice cream for my little ones, and the floral flavors from those wild weeds work great in ice cream. I can only imagine how the more intense rose flavors infuse into a batch.
I found this stunning rose ice cream a while ago, and I can’t believe I still haven’t made it. With two little ones in the house, sometimes projects get put on the back burner, but come on, look at it….how can you see that beautiful tray of pink rose ice cream and not want to make your own?
On the other side of the spectrum from ice cream, there’s this rose white hot chocolate that still gives you that same creamy dessert but in a hot form.
Tea with Roses
I have a jar of dried rose buds that I keep on my tea shelf and I add them into a lot of different cups. The tiny edible rose buds that you can buy from herbal supply houses are perfect for this, because they hold together and you can just add a whole one into your cup with a tea bag. They’re great with earl grey or chai, and that happens a couple times a week in my house.
Rosehip tea also makes regular appearances in our rotation, most often when we’re feeling a bit sick or under the weather. They’re high in vitamin C, and I find them refreshingly tart, perfect with just a bit of honey.
Next on my list to try is this Saffron Rose Chai, which has all the makings of a spectacular spiced chai with warm seasonings and then roses and saffron for subtle notes.
Roses for Breakfast
Adding roses to breakfast is a pretty spectacular idea in my book, and a great way to start your day off on the right foot. A strawberry rose lassi combines yogurt with fruit and roses for a healthy smoothie-like drink with an Indian twist.
Just like adding rose petals to cookies or cake, muffins are another easy way to get your daily dose of rose but without all the sugar. Pistachio rose muffins combine traditional middle eastern flavors into an exotic breakfast treat.
If you’re a bit less concerned about eating sugar for breakfast, rose donuts with strawberry icing sound divine!
A little rose water in the mixed granola before cooking, and then rose petals added after it cools is just enough to get the flavor to come through. If you eat it simply, with milk like a breakfast cereal or sprinkled on top of granola the subtle rose flavors can come through.
Check out this tasty rose granola recipe…
Rose Body Products
Naturally anti-inflammatory and loaded with anti-oxidants, roses do more than just add a beautiful scent to body products. Rosehip powder is commonly used in soap both to create a beautiful color, and help condition skin.
According to my friend Heidi at Healing Harvest Homestead, who makes a rose petal body scrub and healing rose petal salve, “Roses can be used internally and externally, and have astringent, cooling, anti-aging properties. This means they are incredibly good for your skin.”
For that same reason, rose petals are wonderful in an easy to make rose lotion bar, which is a solid lotion that you can just apply to the skin right from the bar. They also pair wonderfully with a handful of wild yarrow in these Yarrow and Rose Petal Soap Bars.
What do you think? Are you ready to start raiding grandma’s rose garden? If you’re ready, there’s likely other tasty edibles in there too. Hosta shoots are edible too, and taste like a cross between scallions and asparagus to me. Daylilies are delicious….the list goes on.
Once you learn that edibles don’t just come from the grocery store, you’ll start looking for them everywhere.