While we are on the subject of drying herbs for teas, I wanted to fill you in on a few other herbs that I had already dried before I started this blog three weeks ago. I will start with the earliest: wild rose petals, which I harvested back in late June and early July. I will cover the other herbs in separate posts in the next little while.
There are more than a hundred species of rose that are native to the northern hemisphere. The wild rose (Rose acicularis), also known as the nootka rose and prickly rose, prefers rich, moist soil and sunny locations. This beautiful shrub has been chosen as Alberta’s floral emblem. Incidentally, ‘Rose’ is also my middle name. (I was named after my grandmother Rose Delna Nabess, a Cree woman who married a French trapper in northern Manitoba.)
You can use the roots, leaves, flowers and fruits of Rose acicularis. In this post, we will focus on the petals. Harvest the petals gently to prevent bruising and only pick from plants that have not been sprayed or contaminated.
When harvesting rose petals do not over-pick from one bush. When taking the flowers, leave one petal behind to ensure that the flower is pollinated, which will let a hip develop.
According to Beverly Gray, wild rose petals can be made into a poultice and applied to cuts, scrapes and fresh bug bites. The petals take the heat out of the wound and reduce inflammation. She also recommends a cooled petal infusion to sooth irritated eyes (be sure to finely strain the liquid first).
Rose oil is used in aromatherapy as a tonic for the womb and sexual organs, and to tone the circulatory and digestive systems. It has sedative, antidepressant, and, of course, aphrodisiac effects.
Rose oil and rose water are soothing, exquisitely scented astringents and emollients, and are widely used in skin-care products as they are very soothing to the skin. They also have a humectant effect, which helps the skin retain moisture. Aroma Borealis makes a rose-petal face cream that has been quoted in an Ottawa newspaper as the “the champagne of creams”. I have just ordered some and I will do a ‘product review’ in a later post. (It cost $14.95 for 30 mL.)
You can make a rose petal facial tonic at home by adding the petals to vodka or apple cider vinegar. Try adding rose petals to your facial steam baths. The petals can also be infused in oil and used as a base for massage and body oils, creams, and other bath products. The petals are also used in potpourris and perfumes.
Rose petals are used to flavor tea, vinegars and sugar, are made into jelly, and crystallized. Middle Eastern cuisine is especially fond of rose-flavored desserts and treats, such as Turkish delight, and rose buds are an ingredient of the spice mix known as ras el hanout.
The scented flowers of the wild rose, fresh or dried, make a fragrant and delicious tea. Half a cup of petals is needed for 1 cup of tea.
Flowers can be added to jams, jellies and salads. The fresh petals are often see on top of wedding cakes. The late Lois Hole (1933-2005), in her book Herbs and Edible Flowers, has a flower petal butter recipe and a recipe for gingered rose custard. I like adding the delicate petals to my melt-in-your-mouth shortbread recipe and freezing the petals in ice cubes to add color and a subtle flavor to water or other clear drinks.
Did you know that it takes a thousand roses to produce 1 pint of rosewater? It takes 5000 pounds of fresh petals to make 1 pound of oil.
I will leave you with a funny quote by Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) that I read today in the Boreal Herbal:
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.
Brown, D. (2001). Herbal: The essential guide to herbs for living. Pavilion Books Ltd.: London.
Gray, B. (2011). The boreal herbal: wild food and medicine plants of the north; a guide to harvesting, preserving, and preparing. Aroma Borealis Press: Whitehorse, Yukon.
Hole, L. (2000). Herbs & edible flowers: Gardening for the kitchen. Hole’s: St. Albert, AB.
Kershaw, L. (2003). Alberta’s wayside flowers. Lone Pine Publishing: Edmonton, AB.
Stewart, H. (1981). Drink in the wild. Douglas & McIntyre: Vancouver, BC.