Rugosa Roses in the Herb Garden
I BEG YOUR PARDON, BUT ARE YOU EATING MY ROSE GARDEN?
Along with the salad, there ought to be a few petals and hips sometimes . . .
When people think of roses they usually think of tea roses – those perfect blooms you get in a bouquet at Valentines that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. People in Zone 3 and under have devised all kinds of ways to grow tender tea roses such as burying the entire plant in the fall or bringing them into root cellars for the winter etc. I admire their dedication but I’m far too lazy and cheap to go to such lengths only to risk the rose dying in the end despite all that effort. Besides, why mess with tea roses when you can grow lovely rugosas instead?
Of course it could be argued that rugosas are not the same as tea roses. Too true. Tea roses are simpering divas constantly demanding to be sprayed for this and treated for that and wouldn’t a manicure be lovely! When they finally sigh up a bloom it is all too often short lived, especially in keeping with all the time and money you’ve invested.
Rugosas, on the other hand, are indifferent to extreme cold, intense heat, or drought. They scoff at black spot and shrug off the effects of salt like it was nothing more than a morning breeze. They are prolific bloomers usually flowering repeatedly through the summer and unlike some roses, they haven’t had all the good scents bred out of them. About the only thing rugosas object to is being sprayed with chemicals. If you try to spray them for bugs or black spot they will turn yellow to remind you they are not to be confused with their high maintenance royal relatives, and kindly point that nozzle at someone else, thank you very much. This is a good thing in more ways than one. If you enjoy eating roses – and who doesn’t – you won’t need to worry about eating chemicals along with your petals and hips!
Warning! Comparing your love to a red, red, rose is romantic. Saying your love reminds you of a rugosa, not so much. The word ‘Rugosa’ translates to ‘Wrinkled’ in reference to its deeply grooved leaves. It’s a rare woman who swoons in her lovers’ arms upon hearing murmurs of, “Oh my love you remind of a wrinkled, wrinkled, rose.” Add the fact that rugosas have gigantic hips and you have another reason not to use rugosas for romantic comparisons. However, for culinary and medicinal purposes, size matters, making rugosas the rose of choice for the herb garden.
When I first got into eating roses I started with the wild ones. The delicate pink petals with their tantalizing fragrance turned ordinary salads and desserts into a five star decadent experience. All it took were five or six petals artfully poked into a dish of vanilla ice cream and suddenly I was Chef Shan’non.
One beautiful June afternoon I set out with measuring cup in hand intent on picking a mere two cups of wild rose petals for jelly. Two cups doesn’t seem like very much does it? That’s what I thought. I plucked and plucked and as the sun went into a steady decline in the western sky, I plucked some more. Soon deep concern for my whereabouts echoed through the woods via cries of “Mom! What’s for supper?” but still I furiously plucked. It was almost as if my measuring cup had a hole in the bottom, which it didn’t. I checked. Twice. By the time I finished I had practically combed our entire 60 acre property for petals. I stumbled home in the dark, clutching my pathetic, sweet smelling bounty to my chest. It was madness.
Despite my affection for wildflowers – or perhaps because of it given that I denuded hundreds of wild roses before their time – I saw the necessity of adding rugosas to my herb and wildflower garden. Rugosa blossoms contain enough petals to make your measuring cup runneth over in no time at all and their enormous hips ensure a bountiful fall harvest.
Harvesting Rose Hips:
Wait until the hips turn red which usually happens just after the first light frost. They should be soft but not mushy. Cut off the ends, slice in half and using the point of a sharp knife carefully remove all the seeds (this part is important since the seeds have little hooks that can lodge in the intestine and cause considerable discomfort). Spread on a cookie sheet covered with a clean cloth or paper towel and dry completely before storing. You can store dried rose hips in glass jars in a pantry or keep them indefinitely in plastic bags or containers in the freezer.
Rose Hips on a Stick
Years ago I was given a recipe for rose hips on a stick, which is perfect for those late summer evenings around the fire pit. Gather rose hips, slice open and flick out the seeds with end of a sharp knife and then grind into a paste. Mix with butter or margarine and add sugar to sweeten. Shape into balls, put on the end of a stick and roast them over hot coals. The sugar and butter make their nutritional value questionable, but they’re a unique alternative to marshmallows which have no nutritive value at all.
Rose hips and seeds contain vitamins B, C, E, and K as well as tannin, pectin, carotene, citric acids, flavonoids, fatty and volatile oils and proteins. Enjoying a cup or two of rose tea daily will help build immunity for fighting off colds and flu. An infusion of the leaves and petals is said to help treat fevers. Rose hip tea is also reputed to calm the nervous system and treat exhaustion. The further north rose hips are harvested, the richer they are in vitamin C.
Rose Hip Tea
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp dried rose hips or 3 – 4 fresh rose hips. Steep up to 30 minutes depending how strong you like your tea.
Cooking with roses can be as simple as sprinkling petals into a tossed salad or on top of desserts or mashing rose petals into honey, cream cheese or butter and using as a sandwich spread.
“How to Eat a Rose” by herbalist and author Jim Long is chock full of recipes and a must for anyone interested in experiencing the culinary delights of roses. You can order the book from Jim at Long Creek Herbs P.O. Box 127 Blue Eye, MO 65611 USA or on his website at http://www.Longcreekherbs.com It is also available through Richters herb catalogue.
Here are a couple of his recipes just to give you an idea of his culinary scope…
1 cup fragrant pink or red rose petals with white parts removed if bitter
1 cup filtered spring or bottled water 1 ½ cups of sugar 3 whole cloves
Combine rose petals and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes. Add sugar and cloves. Simmer only until sugar dissolves; strain and discard petals. Store in a jar in the fridge or freezer. Makes 1 2/3 cup. For a stunning dessert serve this syrup over a plain slice of sponge cake, add several fresh rose petals and decorate with three or four fresh raspberries. Or use the rose syrup in Jim Long’s personal favourite and most popular recipe:
Black Tea and Rose Sorbet
4 cups water 1 tea bag of any good black China tea ½ cup sugar Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon 2 tablespoons of rose syrup 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rose petals
Bring water to a boil add the tea bag and remove from heat. Let steep, covered for 30 minutes. Remove tea bag and discard. Add sugar, lemon juice and rose syrup, stirring well. Chill for at least two hours in the refrigerator. Pour into an ice cream or sorbet freezer and freeze. Serve with fresh rose petals scattered on top.
So what roses should you consider for your hardy herb garden? Read on!
FAVORITE RUGOSAS FOR THE HERB GARDEN
First introduced in 1905, Hansa was a favourite of early settlers. Robust bushes can still be found blooming profusely in abandoned homesteads across Western Canada. For this reason alone Hansa earns a spot in my herb garden. Any plant that thrives on neglect is a plant I want to invite home. The fragrant double blossoms are a deep vibrant purple and give the gardener two strong showings – one in early summer and a second flush of blooms in the fall. The large hips turn deep scarlet in late fall. Hansa grows as tall as it does wide reaching a height and spread of just over two metres (7 feet). Makes a breathtaking, carefree hedge.
Jens Munk dominates the fall rose garden. It has gorgeous intense pink double blooms that slather the bush in the summer, only to turn around and repeat the bloom all over again in the fall. It is common for Jens Munk to be covered with both bright red rose hips and pink blossoms at the same time, making for a visual fall feast. Add to that the changing colour of its leaves from vibrant green to a citrus orange and it’s enough to make you forget all about winter’s approach. The glossy red hips stay on the bush into the winter adding welcome colour to the garden.
Pierrette Pavement is another top rated rugosa and a favourite of rose connoisseurs. There are several fabulous roses in the Pavement series, but the light pink semi-double blooms and robust nature of the Pierrette make it particularly outstanding. In European countries pavement means sidewalk and these roses are perfect for planting along walkways. Of all the rugosas the pavement roses are the most tolerant of salt which makes them an ideal choice whether you live on the coast or in colder climates where icy sidewalks are frequently salted. Pavement roses are fragrant repeat bloomers reaching an approximate height and spread of just under a metre (3 feet) though there are some dwarf types that are shorter
Rosa Scabrosa Despite its rather unfortunate name the Scabrosa is considered by rose experts to be one of the best Rugosa roses available. I agree. It offers outstanding single magenta blooms with brilliant yellow stamens that repeat throughout the summer before ballooning into enormous crab apple sized hips in the fall. Its stunning orange autumn foliage earns the Scabrosa the reputation of being one of the most attractive rose bushes in the fall garden. Its intoxicating scent has been compared to cinnamon or carnations. Height 1.8 metres (6 feet) Spread 1.5 metres (5 feet) Rated Zone 2 the Scabrosa is one of the hardiest roses available.
Therese Bugnet looks the least like a rugosa, but is one nonetheless. I love this rose! It has intense pink double blooms that cover the bush in early summer and then blooms all over again right into the fall. Like most rugosas it scoffs at the cold even when temperatures plunge to minus 40 and beyond. It has gorgeous deep red canes that add interest to the winter landscape. Its bloom time coincides with the chives in my herb garden and the mauve chive blossoms complement Therese Bugnet’s pink petals beautifully.
Wild Rose Okay, it isn’t a rugosa and it may take forever to gather a cup of petals, but Alberta’s provincial flower will always have a special place in my BC herb garden and not just because it’s a tad invasive. Delightfully fragrant, its delicate pink petals soaked with heady perfume are most welcome in early June after a long, long winter. The hips of the wild rose pack the most vitamin C of all wild fruits making it an important indigenous food source for wildlife and humans alike.
If you plant any of these six roses I promise you a rose garden…but don’t stop at just these. There are many, many, more varieties worth considering with more coming out all the time.
I leave you with the wise words Alphonse Karr (1808-90) – “Some people are always grumbling because the rose has thorns; I am thankful that the thorns have roses”