This past Sunday, I attended my third wild edible plants class. I am so glad I signed up for this series…I really look forward to the class each month, and I always come away feeling excited and inspired.
This month, our main focus was on plants in the rose family. I had no idea Rosaceae was so diverse: it includes everything from wild and cultivated roses to raspberries and strawberries to stone fruits (including apricots, cherries, and plums). Dainty cinquefoil flowers (edible) and showy spirea shrubs (not edible, as far as I know) are also in the rose family.
For part of each class, we meander around my friend Halyna’s beautiful homestead while she points out and tells us about the edible plants all around us. I also gaze at her beautiful animals :)
Then, we go back to Halyna’s kitchen and she shows us how to prepare the plants in a variety of ways. We sip tea replete with fresh herbs and pepper Halyna with all sorts of questions about what she’s making. Halyna’s lovely mother lives nearby and often joins us: they are both a wealth of knowledge about medicinal plants. In our kitchen session this time, we feasted on cattails slathered with butter, cooked milkweed flowers drenched in a fabulous herbal vinagrette, and elderflower fritters drizzled with rose honey. Halyna’s family is Ukrainian, so she also showed us how to make uncooked preserved rose petals that are traditionally used to fill doughnuts in the Ukraine at Christmastime.
To make this recipe, you start with 2 cups of freshly picked, tightly packed rose petals. Use the most fragrant (and definitely unsprayed) rose petals you can find. We used pink rose petals when we made this at Halyna’s house; I’ve used red ones here.
You can make this by hand in a mortar and pestle (or by crushing the petals together with a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease), or you can dump the petals and some sugar into a food processor or blender and let the machine do the work. Halyna’s mom instructed us to use twice as much sugar as rose petals. I felt like this was a ton of sugar, so I only used 2 cups here. You can use white sugar or, better yet, use organic sugar. Process or blend the rose petals with the sugar until thoroughly combined (you’ll need to turn the machine off and scrape the sides down every so often. I used a blender, and it looked like this part-way through:
When your sugar mixture has turned a stunning shade of dark pink/purple, add the juice of 1 lemon and process/blend again. Halyna didn’t mention it, but a few sources I found via a google search also suggested adding 2 tablespoons of rum, so I did. It’s my understanding that this mixture will keep for many months without discoloring because of all the sugar and the acid in the lemon juice (and the rum helps with the preservation, as well). Since I did cut back on the sugar, I am keeping mine in the refrigerator, but I may make a bigger batch with the larger amount of sugar to put into pretty canning jars to give as holiday gifts.
As I mentioned above, this mixture has traditionally been used to fill doughnuts at holiday time in the Ukraine. I am contemplating how I will use mine…I am thinking of using it to fill hand pies, maybe? If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them!
Note that if you just want to make a rose-scented/colored sugar, blend the petals with the sugar and don’t add the lemon juice or rum. I bet this would be fun for sprinkling on buttered toast, rolling sugar cookies in, or for decorating cupcakes.