Are All Roses Edible?

Mr. Lincoln, one of the fragrant, flavorful red hybrid tea roses.

If  you travel to India, Pakistan or countries in that region, you will find roses in food as often as you do other herbs. While in India I enjoyed rose cakes at weddings, rose ice cream and rose milk shakes in ice cream parlors, and rose jams wrapped in flatbreads. The rose is as common as chocolate, vanilla or strawberry in ice cream varieties.

Graham Thomas climbing rose has a delicious flavor and fragrance.

Following here is what you should know about eating roses. Theoretically, all roses are edible. The rose and the apple are first cousins, which is why rose hips (the fruit, after the flower fades) look a lot like apples. And those roses hips are very tasty, as well.

Here are some tips for choosing roses for your salads, ice cream, cakes, teas, sorbets and more.

1-Never eat roses from a florist. The amount of pesticide necessary to produce those lovely, long-stemmed roses, are not something you want in your body. Plus, most florist roses have much fragrance and thus, no flavor.

2-Don't use roses from your garden IF you use bug sprays, or systemic fertilizers which include pesticide or fungicide in them. If it keeps bugs off the roses, then the poison is also in the rose and you shouldn't eat it.

Other than those 2 cautions, any rose is edible. To choose the best ones to use, pick a fragrant rose. If it SMELLS good, it will TASTE good, as well!

Generally speaking, the best fragranced, best flavored roses are pink and yellow varieties. There are a few fragrant red rose varieties (Mr. Lincoln, a hybrid tea, for example). Pick the roses after the dew has evaporated, but before the hottest part of the day. The fragrance and flavor will be best, then. Then use the rose petals immediately, or keep them in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Rose and Raspberry Salad, from How to Eat a Rose.

Some of the best rose varieties for eating are the old-fashioned, shrub roses. Those need no spraying and are easy to care for. Many of the hybrid tea roses have little fragrance. They've been bred for gorgeous flowers with little attention to what they smell like. Similarly, the new Endless Summer roses are beautiful, but have no fragrance and no flavor. I met the rose developer who created the Endless Summer line and I asked him why his roses have no fragrance. He said, "Most people want a rose in their garden that blooms all season and is easy to care for. Fragrance just isn't very important in most people's landscape." 

Rose filing and rose icing make this angle food cake an elegant dessert!

That's it! You are ready to begin eating roses. Pull the fresh petals from the center part of the plant and they are ready to use.

How to Eat a Rose, available from LongCreekHerbs.com

On these blog pages in the coming months you will find recipes and information about using roses. You might want to order my book, How to Eat a Rose from my website, for my current collection of recipes; in it you'll find resources for buying old-fashioned, good-flavored roses, as well as lots of delightful, easy recipes using roses.