Herb of the year: Rose
“The rose, queen of flowers! Her fragrance captured in the essential oil, is the most precious of all heavenly scents. It refreshes the soul; its fragrant poetry brings joy to the heart.”
— Susan Fischer-Rizziu
How do you capture the essence of the world’s most famous flower? Having it named the herb of the year seems like such a small celebration. The Herb Society of American features a different herb each year to bring to the forefront.
The selection for 2012 is the rose, which surprised people since most don’t realize that eating roses is flavorful and exciting. Roses are one of the oldest recorded flower yet still one of the most popular. The rose is the most used flower mentioned in lyrics, poems, songs and paintings.
If it weren’t for the rose, weddings, funerals, the Kentucky Derby, the Rose Parade and Valentine’s Day would not be the same.
Roses have long been a culinary staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, and used for their medicinal qualities since Ancient Greek and Roman times.
One of the favorite roses to use for culinary purposes is the rugosa (R.rugosa). My advice is to taste the rose petals before you create your favorite recipe, since some can have a very strong flavor while others can be bitter. Never eat a rose from a florist or one that has been sprayed. Only eat them from sources you know and trust, like your own back yard or from a friend. There are also companies that you can order edible roses from online.
I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in Frankenmuth, Mich., where each of the menu selections featured the use of roses. You can use the flavor in your favorite recipe at home by adding just a hint of rosewater, infusing in rose hip tea or sprinkling roses on top.
If you are one who has the same challenges as I when growing roses, start small with one or two easy to grow varieties. Most roses need at least six hours of sun, a pH of around 6.5 and good air circulation around the plant to help prevent diseases.
Rose varieties can reach 2 to 25 feet tall, and about the same width. They require a well-drained soil, kept moist, but not wet. Propagation is by cuttings or grafts. The varieties of roses are plentiful, with hundred available and new ones coming out yearly. They can be used anywhere in your landscape: standing alone, climbing a arbor or being featured in your herb garden.
The best roses to use are the antique or heirloom roses. The new hybrids have been created for the large blooms, longer stems and colors, but along the way they have lost their medicinal values and fragrance. Rosa Gallica or apothecary rose is a favorite used for medicinal purposes. The name comes from them being planted outside apothecary shops.
Roses have played a part throughout history and will continue to do so for centuries to come. Many industries such as perfume, household products, floral, jewelry and culinary have relied on roses to survive. Today in Europe, there are monasteries and abbeys that continue to make rose petal beads used for rosaries. Some say the rosary was named after the rose hips that were strung by the monks to create the valued rosary. Later they were made from the paste of crushed rose petals rolled and dried into beads.
Rose essential oil is featured in perfumes, lotions and bath and body products. It takes about 4,000 pounds of rose petals to get 16 ounces of pure rose essential oil. Rose water is usually made with distilled water with rose essential oil added, or made by infusing rose petals in simmering water. Read the label to better understand the ingredients. Rose hips have been touted for their vitamin C content, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
Roses possess antibacterial, antiseptic and good vitamin and mineral properties which is why there are in as high demand today as they were in ancient times before the invention of modern synthetic drugs.
Susan Liechty is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.