Did you know that edible roses are actually a thing? Yep. Roses have a rich history dating back to ancient times. The eye-catching flower growing on beautiful trellises has been used in medicine, fragrances, and on dinner plates and drinking cups throughout time. That’s right, the sweet smelling rose is an edible flower and if you’ve ever wondered how to grow, harvest and eat your own backyard roses, then read on to learn all about edible roses and their many uses.
What Types of Edible Roses Exist?
If you’re wondering if your rose bush grows edible roses, or you’re wanting to choose a rose variety to grow for food, then you’re in luck. With more than 150 varieties of rose you have a lot to choose from because every variety of rose is edible! With that said, you never want to eat a rose that has been purchased at the flower shop, or that has been exposed to pesticide. Growing roses for eating means growing organic roses that are safe to eat.
While all rose varieties are edible, there are certain roses that have more flavor than others. When choosing a variety of edible rose to plant, consider the following:
Heirloom Edible Roses
While many of the roses on the market today are a hybrid variety bred specifically for color, hardiness or pest resistance, you might find that the hybrids aren’t quite as flavorful, or might even have an odd aftertaste, compared to a heirloom rose variety. Old, low-maintenance heirloom roses like the David Austin English roses are known for their exquisite taste in the flower petals.
Fragrant Edible Roses
The saying goes that the more fragrant the rose, the more flavorful. While you will often be planting a bare root variety of your rose so you won’t get a chance to smell it first, do some research on fragrant varieties that grow well in your area to ensure a flavorful rose variety before planting.
Own-Root Roses vs. Grafted
When it comes to shopping for rose plants you’ll be presented with two types: grafted or own-root. A grafted rose plant is created by taking a rooted under-stock of a different rose variety and then grafting in the type of rose variety you’ll be purchasing. This is a more cost effect and quick process for the nursery but might not always produce the hardiest plant for the home gardener. ]
Own-root roses are hardier and require no special treatment to protect them from your winter climate. If you do have a harsh winter that has your rose bush experiencing die-back of canes to the ground then you don’t have to worry, unlike the grafted rose variety, own-root roses will send off new, natural shoots from the roots. Own-root plants are generally better developed and have been grown for several years before they reach the size you purchase at the nursery. This variety also is typically longer living, so overall, when it comes to selecting an edible rose we recommend purchasing own-root roses where possible.
Growing Edible Roses
When it comes to planting edible roses look for a sunny slope, an area that can give your rose full sun and lots of air circulation. Roses prefer slightly acidic, well-drained soil so make sure to amend the ground as needed before planting. Roses can be planted anytime during the growing season but make sure to allow for at least 8 weeks in the soil before the first frost.
Do not overwater roses, water them deeply from the ground and mulch to retain moisture and discourage weeds. Choosing a rose specific, organic, food-safe fertilizer is the only way to go since you will be eating your roses.
Consuming Leaves of Edible Roses
You’ll want to use rose leaves while they are still young. Clip them directly from the stem and either use them fresh or dry them for future recipes. Rose leaves are most often used in tea mixes. The flavor of rose leaf tea is similar to a black tea, but with the benefit of being caffeine free like a herbal tea. Not only are the leaves used for tasty dishes but they are also good for you. Rose leaves contain polyphenol, a source of antioxidants linked to a reduced risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Harvesting and Eating Rose Petals
Rose petals are most often used as a garnish to add color and beauty to the dish you are serving. Picture them used as a dessert garnish or as a pop of color on a summer salad. You don’t need a lot of petals to make a statement so you simply pull a few from the flower head while they are in full bloom and use them as needed in the kitchen. No need to cut off the entire flower head to use rose petals in your recipes.
Harvesting and Eating Rose Buds
Rose buds — the unopened flower — are edible as well and full of rose flavor. This part of the rose is called for in recipes for tea, drinks, desserts and chutney. You’ll harvest the buds by snipping them from the rose bush just before they bloom. Rose buds can either be used fresh or dried for later. Make sure not to harvest all the buds, leave some to bloom so you can use the petals and rose hips in recipes later in the season.
Harvesting and Eating Rose Hips
Rose hips are the swollen part of the stem that can be found right behind the flower. They are more jam packed with Vitamin C than an orange and can have a tangy flavor similar to an apricot! Rose hips are considered ripe and ready to clip off the stem once there is no green remaining and the rose hip is fully red or orange in color. With the rose hips harvested you will cut them in half and remove all the seeds before using in recipes for teas, jellies and vinegar.
Edible Roses for Cake
Fresh flowers continue to be popular for decorating desserts, especially wedding cakes. If you want to grow your garden of edible flowers to decorate cakes then don’t forget to grow organic roses. Don’t put the flowers on the dessert until the last minute so you can avoid wilting flowers. Edible roses will look beautiful on your desserts and as a bonus, your guests can try some fresh rose petals that you grew yourself.
Don’t overlook edible flowers in the food garden. They add beauty and delicious, nutrient-rich food for harvest!