Riddle me Roses, and More

Puzzle lovers, here is a riddle for you: What herb is widely believed to have originated in ancient Persia yet has been found as a 32 million year old fossil in Colorado, has been carefully cultivated in gardens for over 16 thousand years for it’s religious, medicinal and culinary uses, is grown in all parts of the temperate world, produces a fruit that has 25% more vitamin C then most citrus, is used around the world in cosmetics and fragrance products, is one of the most widely grown plants on earth, produces an essential oil worth over $300.00 an ounce, is the backbone of the international florist trade and routinely used in weddings, funerals, parties and graduations, has been the symbol of love for thousands of years but is also the symbol of secrecy and has been chosen the 2012 Herb of the Year? Give up? THE ROSE!

It’s true, the rose is all of the above and more. Roses are also culinary herbs. Most of us don’t think of eating our roses but many people in other parts of the world relish them. Unsprayed rose petals are used in butters, sugars, mustards, vinegars, jams, jellies, syrups, sorbets, spice mixes, salads, soups and main dishes.

If you want to try something new and different for this holiday season or in the new year, Google “culinary rose recipes”. There are lots of delicious-sounding recipes to try. Just remember, use ONLY unsprayed roses and be sure to snip off the bitter white end of each petal before you add it to a recipe. Also, if anyone at your table is allergic to roses, caution them not to eat the rose dish.

Several people have asked for suggestions about what to do with leftover fresh herbs from the grocery store.
If you purchase a bunch of fresh herbs- parsley, sage, thyme, mint etc.-and can’t use all of it in a dish you are preparing, don’t discard the unused portion. Try one, or all, of the following instead.

* Freeze the leftover herb. Remove any tough, woody stems from the bunch. Rinse and carefully pat dry the leaves and tender stems. Chop the herbs as finely as possible. Pack the chopped herbs in freezer bags or small containers and store in the coldest part of your freezer. The frozen herbs will keep their fresh flavor for several months, ready for use whenever needed.
* Make herb vinegar. Stuff a clean quart canning jar with leftover herbs. Fill the jar with white wine, red wine or apple cider vinegar. Screw on the lid and allow to sit for two weeks. Strain the vinegar and rebottle. Use on salads, in sauces and in any recipe that calls for vinegar.
* Make a refreshing winter body splash or spray. Combine 2 cups apple cider vinegar with 1/3 cup honey in a small saucepan. Simmer gently for two or three minutes to dissolve the honey into the vinegar. Cool. Pour the vinegar-honey solution into a clean canning jar. Add 2-3 stems each of fresh sage, fresh thyme, rosemary and mint to the jar. Don’t buy extra herbs for this. Any combination of these savory, invigorating herbs will work. Drop in 3-4 whole cloves and/or 2-3 allspice berries. Screw on lid and shake gently. Allow to sit 2 weeks. Strain liquid from jar. Repackage into a spray bottle or pretty jar. If the fragrance is too strong, dilute with a little cold water. Use as a spirit-lifting body splash or room freshener all winter long.