A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Updated: May 25, 2021

"Civilization begins with a rose. A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples (Stein, 1954)".


Author Gertrude Stein wrote “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” for the first time in a poem Sacred Emily(1922). The meaning of this phrase for Stein meant loveliness extreme and indeed, the flower itself has come to represent the essence of beauty. We believe roses are one of the oldest flowers on the planet and probably originated in Central Asia – their cultivation dates back to 5,000 years ago. Fossil evidence found in Colorado suggests that the rose could be 55 million years old (Foreman, 2021)! Ancient Chinese philosophers wrote about them, paintings of them have been found in Egyptian tombs, and Roman emperors used them in their baths and for their feasts. According to some historians, it was Alexander

the Great who brought the rose to Europe where through the centuries the rose became entrenched in all aspects of culture and literature. At one point in time, in 17 th century Europe, the rose was so valued that it was considered to be a form of currency. In the 18 th – 19 th centuries, hybridizing different varieties of roses became popular. A wide variety of species were crossed resulting in many, many more varietals. This practice of hybridizing roses brought us the hybrid tea rose with a fragrance as potent as a lovely cup of tea – hence its name! The tea rose is the most popular rose in the world today boasting an abundance of colors and fragrances (Trinklein, 2008).

Beautiful and Delicious!

When we think of roses, we think of the beautiful ornamental flowers, well known for their aromatic fragrance. We see them adorning our yards and lawns and use them for cosmetic purposes in creams, concentrated in oils and in perfumes. Did you know you could eat them? Here in America we may not be accustomed to using roses as culinary accoutrements, but the rest of the world has been cooking with roses since the dawn of time!

Rose candy dates back to Ancient Rome and that candy recipe may be the earliest recorded use of roses as a featured cooking element. We find more widespread use of roses as a cooking ingredient in the Middle East, however. Persian and Turkish kitchens have used rose petals since the first millennium A.D. The Spice Routes also known as the Maritime Silken Roads, allowed for all sorts of exotic spices and roses to find their way around the globe (Unesco).

By the 14 th century, medieval recipes called for roses in sauces served with fish and game in addition to desserts, candies, and preserves (Mayhew, nd.). Worldwide, roses. are used in teas, soups and sauces, jams and jellies, syrups and honey, as well as oils and vinegars.

Rose water is used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is very popular in sweets including Turkish delight, barfi, baklava, halva, kulfi, and gulab jamon just to name a few delightful confections. Rose petals and the flower buds are used in tea. Rose syrups and creams have found their way into Western Europe as an ingredient for a variety of candies (BBC, 2021).

Roses are a multifunctional plant! They are beautiful and delicious. The edible parts of a rose include:

  • Leaves – yes, the leaves! They should be picked when they are young for better flavor and best used steeped in tea. They taste like black tea but have no caffeine. They can be used raw or dried in an herbal tea mix.

  • Buds. These too can be dried out and used in teas. They can also be ground and used with other spices in aromatic rice dishes.

  • Petals. Fresh rose petals can be added to a salad. They can be chopped and added to honey as a spread. They can be candies and they can be used as a garnish. The petals can also be used in teas but they are not as flavorful as the buds.

  • Hips. Rose hips are the “fruit” of the rose. It is the swollen part of the stem. They are tangy and full of vitamin C. Different rose varieties produce different sizes, colors, and flavors of rose hips. They should be harvested when they are fully orange or red in color. Once the hips have been harvested (clipped off of the rose plant), they should be cut in half and all the seeds should be scraped out. You can freeze them until you have enough to use in a recipe. You can eat them raw, but they taste better cooked! They are tasty in sauces, jams, puddings, and teas (Tyrant Farms, 2019).

Health Benefits

Rose hips (usually from Rosa canina), is a good source of vitamin C and has been useful for:

 Reducing inflammation and pain;

 Treating rheumatoid arthritis;

 Reducing symptoms of knee and hip osteoarthritis;

 Boosting the body’s immune system and fighting Infection;

 Facilitating fat metabolism and may aid in weight loss;

 Protecting against type 2 diabetes;

 Protecting tissues from free radical damage;

 Assisting the nervous system by converting targeted amino acids into


 Preventing scurvy;

 Protecting joints and connective tissues;

 Protecting adrenal function;

 Preventing urinary bladder infection;

 Treating dizziness and headaches;

 Fighting skin aging by restoring firmness to skin (when used as an oil);


 Treating constipation.

Additionally, rose hips is also a good source of iron. Please note that rose hips can have interactions with numerous prescription medicines and as such, it may be of benefit to consult with your health care provider before using rose hips as a treatment for any of the conditions listed. You should also not consume rose hips if you are pregnant or suffer from sickle cell anemia (Cunha, n.d.; McGrane, 2019; Wong, 2020).

Let’s get back in the kitchen!

Roses flavor everything from cakes to puddings to wine to main courses to teas. Many believe that roses taste the way they smell but even those without a fragrance can have an intense flavor. The flavors of roses can be sweet, spicy, bitter, sour, herbal, or fruity. The intensity of the flavor depends on the type, color ,and conditions of the soil in which the roses are grown. The darker the petals, the more intense the flavor (Barasch, 2020). With over 300,000 different kinds of roses, which do you choose to use in a culinary delight?

Some would argue that Rosa rugosa alba, the white beach rose, is the most delicious followed by Rosa rugosa (beach rose or Japanese rose). Others would suggest Rosa damascena (Damask rose or Indian rose) and Rosa gallica (Apothecary rose) are terrific alternatives. There are also many spice blends containing roses in them. For example, roses from the Middle East pair well with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mint, and a variety of different pepper spices. The choice of rose, is up to you and what your desired food effect is! You just have to try them out and see. Just remember, that while all roses are edible, remove the bitter white portion of the petals before you eat them! Also if you want to grow your own, avoid the use of chemicals and pesticides as these are toxic (Barasch, 2020; Wolfe, 2020)!

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