Stop and Eat the Roses
I like beautiful plants as much as the next person. Walking past my rose garden always brings me joy on a daily basis. However, it’s easy to forget the utility of something when we are overwhelmed by its splendor. This is one of the symptoms we experience as a culture being so far removed from the prospects of starvation and want: We’ve forgotten that many beautiful things are indeed useful!
Take my roses for example. Did you know that roses are edible?
Eating rose petals is an ancient tradition that can be traced back to the Roman Empire. In those days, rose petals would be sprinkled on food to celebrate victories in the battlefield. The petals themselves vary in flavor; lightly colored petals are sweeter and dark petals tend to have a more perfumed quality. For the best results, you should remove the very bottom of the petals when you use them as they can be very bitter. So the next time you have a salad, try adding a few rose petals. You may find it’s a meal fit for Caesar.
But the petals are not the only edible part of rosebushes, nor are the Romans the only culture to have practiced the eating of roses. The Northern Plains Indians have traditionally incorporated roses into their diet, specifically rosehips.
Rosehips are the red or red-orange fruit left over after the roses finish blooming. Just like apple blossoms turn into apples, rose blossoms turn into rosehips. Many people are unfamiliar with rosehips because decorative rosebushes are generally deadheaded before the fruits have time to develop. Adding to their obscurity is the fact that they can be very small. In hybrid tea varieties, the hips can be the size of a dime; in some wild roses they’re even smaller.
Despite their size, rosehips pack a nutritious wallop. Just one ounce of them contains 199% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. That’s the same amount as six limes, four lemons, or two oranges. One ounce of rosehips also contains 24% of suggested daily Vitamin A, 27% of suggested daily dietary fiber requirement, and is considered a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Magnesium, and Manganese. All of this for just 45 calories provided you can bear the taste without sugar.
Roses are just one example of edible flowers. Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, and Chrysanthemums have edible parts as do many other flowers, yet because of our abundance and their beauty we rarely consider eating them. However, if you truly want to be a good steward of all your resources — including your flower beds — then you should consider what extra value can be derived from each and every plant in your garden. With a little creativity a great deal of useful, edible, and beautiful plants can be incorporated into space that would otherwise be wasted.
Until next time, “waste not, want not.”
From the farm,
John Goforth is our friend from the east coast who has been involved in agriculture most of his life. He is the son of David Goforth (M.S. in Horticulture and Cabarrus County’s agricultural extension agent) and grew up on the family farm in Rockwell, NC. At age 13, with his father and brother, he started selling produce at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market which eventually evolved into Goforth’s Garden. Today, they raise peaches, blueberries, and an assortment of other fruits and vegetables to be sold at local markets and through their CSA. John’s other interest include writing, whittling, and woodworking.