“As rich and purposeless as is the rose: Thy simple doom is to be beautiful.”
                            –Stephen Phillips, Marpessa

With a scent that defines love, petals whose softness rivals that of infant skin, and a persnickety nature that requires constant attention from their masters: roses have enchanted humans for hundreds of years. Wouldn’t it make sense to try and consume these qualities? Yes. But is it safe to do so?

Stephen Phillips may claim the rose is purposeless except for beauty but I think many others would heartily disagree. In addition to perfume, roses contribute a flavor that is soft and subtle yet quite distinct. Roses are extremely popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and used to flavor syrups, cookies, cakes and candies.

Roses are gaining momentum as a spice here in the West. At the moment I have a jar of rose jelly that is the perfect companion and frosting replacement for plain white cake or angel food cake (no frosting). It’s fun to purchase these rose products but is it safe to harvest your backyard roses?

In one word…yes. Different petals deliver different flavors. Some petals are more spicy, sweet, or tart than others and I think it would be fun to experiment and see what you have. I’m intrigued with the idea of making a rose syrup or extract. Until I find a way to do that you can start by harvesting petals and sugaring them.

Attention and Disclaimer! Yes, you can harvest backyard rose petals but in doing so you’re turning your lovely rose bush into a food crop. Don’t consume any plants treated with herbicides or other chemicals sprays or powders. Not smart. Not healthy. Don’t do it. Furthermore, plants aren’t isolated units—your garden is an ecosystem. If your rose bush is in proximity to plants that are treated (like a lawn), it will absorb the chemicals into its own system rendering it unfit for consumption.

Rose Scented Sweet Potato Kheer is a recipe sent to me by a fellow Foodbuzz blogger who specializes in gluten-free foods. This dessert is from India and is naturally gluten free. It calls for garden rose petals so you may want to amble over and take a look. It’s lovely.

Spice Sherpa readers are a creative bunch. Please share what you do with your rose petals so others may be inspired to try something! If you run a blog feel free to post a link to your recipe. I know I’ll be visiting!

P.S. This question came to me from Twitter follower, @foodwanderings. I was recently invited to be a guest host on the immensely popular Foodie’s Night In (FNI), a coordinated Twitter conversation on Mondays from 4-6 p.m. EST, organized by @cookingwcaitlin and @savvyhost. Anyone can join–you simply type #fni in the search bar and the entire conversation stream is displayed. The hosts share a list of question prompts at regular intervals. There are usually several hosts who are experts in the area covered. This recent FNI was all about spices.  During the conversation, the spice topic turned to herbs and gardens. And that brings us back to the rose.

Photo Attribution: Aliza7248 on Flickr