The flavor of rose petals is one of those subtle flavors that will delight your taste buds. Don’t miss this taste treat! But why roses in August? They don’t tend to bloom in August here in the desert.
Let’s Look at History
If we go back about 13,000 years, right here in the Southwest folks were hunting and feasting on the giant woolly mammoth that roamed across the grassy plains that were the vegetation here. Then those hunters could spend the freezing icy winter months snug under warm woolly mammoth hides.
Fast forward to about 4000 years ago. Woolly mammoths are all gone, and agriculture is the new way to feed the family. In what is now Tucson the Natives were growing corn watered by irrigation canals that emanated from the “base of the black hill” (currently called A Mountain). The name for this black mountain was “chuk-son.” Yes there was an ever flowing spring there – the Southwest was cooler and wetter.
Things have been changing right along. Plants and animals that love the cooler weather have been retreating up into our “sky islands” the tall mountains in our areas for centuries.
Some of us folks that live near the “Base of the Black Hill” retreat up onto the sky islands ourselves in the summer heat. While up there in the mountains we find a whole new wealth of plants to forage and use. Like wild roses.
Forage Rose Petals
The flavor of roses is one of those subtle flavors that will delight your taste buds. If you haven’t tried rose petals yet you – are missing a treat. Today we will look at two drinks to make using rose petals.
Which Roses To Use?
Really any true rose * will work. The wild Western rose, also called Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) is found throughout the Southwest. It makes an excellent rose to forage due to it’s intensely flavorful petals.
In the garden, the gallica roses (originally from Persia) have the most flavorful petals. Possibly they were bred over the eons to increase their fragrance and flavor, since rose water is a popular ingredient in making baklava. Speaking of bakalava, do harvest your mesquite pods for mesquite meal so you can make Mesquite Baklava. I will repost as soon as I make a batch and have photos to share.
* Just because it has “rose” in the common name – doesn’t mean it is a true rose. One example is Adenium, the “Karoo rose,” also called the “desert rose.” Adenium is related to oleander and is quite toxic.
Find a Tasty Rose
If you have never had rose petal anything, pluck a single petal and sample the outer edge. (The outer edge because the innermost white part of the petal tends to be less sweet.) Is it a sweet? We are not talking commercial candy bar sweet here, just the hint of sweet. Not even the sweet of a fruit like an orange or even mesquite pod. This is a subtle sweet flavor that leaves a hint of rose flavor.
If the petal is mildy sweet, then harvest from this plant. If not, the plant might be a less sweet variety or it might be a plant that is stressed. Try another plant. If you still find the flavor not pleasing, listen to your senses. Your body may not tolerate roses. Remember to Savor Safely.
Harvest Petals Only
Pluck only the petals, leaving the base of the rose flower to develop into a rose hip. Rose hips are important food for wildlife, and humans too. Rose hips are high in vitamin C and were once used by pioneers and miners to help prevent scurvy.
If you carefully harvest the older roses, after they had a chance to get pollinated, take as many petals as you want. How many depends on what you are making.
Rose Petal Brandy
rose petals brandy jar
Select a clean sterilized jar. Which size jar? Depends on how you will use this enchantingly flavorful brandy. Is it for you or do you want to give it as gifts? I like to use glass kombucha drink bottles, which are about a pint for gifting. After washing I fill them with hot (but not boiling) water to sterilize them. The one time I used boiling water I was VERY glad I had put the bottle in the sink first. Made it easier to clean up the broken glass.
Prepare the rose petals by rinsing in cool water to eliminate dust and any debris.
Spin dry in a salad spinner, or pat gently with a towel.
You can use the whole petals or you can cut or tear off the less sweet white end where it was attached to the hip.
Fill your jar loosely with these fresh rose petals.
Pour in a good quality brandy into the jar to fill to the rim.
It is important to entirely submerge the rose petals. The alcohol will prevent them from getting moldy, but if they are exposed to air, all bets are off.
Cap tightly and shake well to make any air bubbles rise to the surface. If necessary, add more brandy.
Store the jar a dark place and shake once a week to better infuse the flavor.
In about 6 weeks the brandy will be delicately flavored by the rose petals.
You can use dried rose petals, but it takes longer for the flavor to infuse, more like 6 months.
Since it takes six weeks to infuse, this brandy would be ready by some Dia de Muertos celebrations. It makes an awesome sangria.
Rose Petal Brandy Sangria
1/2 cup rose petal brandy 1 bottle of a dry wine like Cabernet Sauvignon 1 orange – sliced in 1/4 inch slices 1 lime - sliced likewise 1 lemon - sliced likewise 1 tart apple - like Granny Smith, cut into 1/2 inch squares 1 quart lemon-lime soda
Mix everything but the soda together and let sit at least 2 hours, or better overnight, in the fridge. This helps the flavor blend and develop. Before serving, add the soda and pour over ice.
The Savor Team
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The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.