As it heats in the Southwestern valleys, many of us head to higher elevations, seeking coolness. Some Southwesterners live in higher elevations all year long (think Flagstaff or Santa Fe.) Either way, a charming wild plant to forage has city garden cousins, and both are wonderful to use – the wild rose!
The wild Western rose, also called Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) is found throughout the Southwest. It makes an excellent rose to forage due to it’s intensely flavorful petals. In the garden, the gallica roses (originally from Persia) have the most flavorful petals. Possibly they were bred over the eons to increase their fragrance and flavor, since rose water is a popular ingredient in making baklava. Indeed, I use homemade rose water to make my mesquite baklava. Be sure to add your name to our SavortheSW newsletter to be informed when that recipe goes up. (Some things I have to make again so I have photographs of the process.)
If you have never had rose petal anything, pluck a single petal and sample the outer edge. The outer edge because the innermost white part of the petal is less sweet. Is it a sweet one? Then harvest. If not, the plant might be stressed and try another plant. If you still find the flavor not pleasing, listen to your senses. Your body may not tolerate roses. We discussed this on our Front Page – here.
Pluck only the petals, leaving the base of the rose to develop into a rose hip. Rose hips are important food for wildlife, and humans too. Rose hips are high in vitamin C and were once used by pioneers and miners to help prevent scurvy.
If you carefully harvest the older roses, after they had a chance to get pollinated, take as many petals as you want. How many depends on what you are making.
Rose Petal Brandy
Select a clean sterilized jar. Which size jar? Depends on how you will use this enchantingly flavorful brandy. Is it for you – or do you want to give it as gifts? I like to use glass kombucha drink bottles, which are about a pint for gifting. After washing I fill them with hot (but not boiling) water to sterilize them. The one time I used boiling water I was VERY glad I had put the bottle in the sink first. Made it easier to clean up the broken glass.
Prepare the rose petals by cutting or tearing off the bitter white end where it was attached to the hip. You can do this as you harvest and leave the white bits as mulch, or put them into the compost.
Fill your jar loosely with these fresh rose petals.
Pour in a good quality brandy into the jar to fill to the rim.
It is important to entirely submerge the rose petals. The alcohol will prevent the rose petals from getting moldy, but if they are exposed to air, all bets are off.
Cap tightly and shake well to make any air bubbles rise to the surface. If necessary, add more brandy.
Store the jar a dark place and shake once a week to better infuse the flavor.
In about 6 weeks the brandy will be perfumed and flavored by the rose petals.
Since it takes six weeks to infuse, this brandy would be ready for some Autumn Equinox celebrations. It makes an awesome sangria.
Rose Petal Brandy Sangria
1/2 cup rose petal brandy
1 bottle of a dry wine like Cabernet Sauvignon
a sliced orange (1/4 inch slices)
1 sliced lime – likewise
lemon sliced – likewise
tart apple like Granny Smith, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 quart lemon-lime soda
Mix all this but the soda together and let sit at least 2 hours, or better overnight in the fridge. This really lets the flavor develop. Before serving add the soda and pour over ice.
Want to learn more? Look for our free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). Note – This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
Better yet – visit Antigone Bookstore, Mostly Books, or a local Botanical Garden such as Tohono Chul or Tucson Botanical Garden and shop locally!
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.