By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society
“No wonder that cheek in its beauty transcendent,
Excelleth the beauty of others by far;
No wonder that eye is so richly resplendent.
For your heart is a rose and your soul is a star.”
-Frances Sargent Osgood
‘Tis the season for old-fashioned love potions. Many of these magical blends – for love and beauty — use rose petals and rosewater. To make mine I grow many different varieties of old garden roses, in particular the Damask or Bourbon varieties which have such a sensually deep and honeyed fragrance. During winter’s sleep you can order your petals from Mountain Rose Herbs.
I love my rose bushes like I love my children. They are coddled and spoiled rotten. Because of that they grow beautifully and gift me with abundant armfuls of blossoms that I use for flavored sugars, syrups, bath oils, and teas. There are so many ways to use an abundance of dried rose petals and I’m going to share a few of my favorites. They’re especially enchanting for private Valentine’s Day celebrations.
First, rose-infused apple jelly. Stir three tablespoons of chopped or crushed, dried, organic rose petals to a jar of fine quality apple jelly, close the lid and let the petals infuse the jelly with their lovely fragrance for a couple of days. Spread this on a piece of hot toast with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a knob of fresh salted butter and offer it to your sweetheart (or yourself). Remember, roses have been the flower for lovers for good reason.
For Valentine’s Day eve, I start a week or two in advance. I stir three handfuls of petals and a cup of muddled raspberries into a decanted bottle of rose to which I’ve added a cup of raw honey, several pieces of crystallized ginger, and a bit of vanilla bean. I store this is the refrigerator for a week or two then strain into a pretty bottle. I serve this potent love elixir chilled in little crystal glasses. One little glass prepares the senses for love-filled dreams and a wonderful day ahead. That’s all you need. Consider yourself warned!
To make a fragrant and seductive rose petal tea throw a handful of organic dried rose petals, a handful of dried catnip leaves and flowers, a teaspoon of dried tulsi and a stick of cinnamon into a warmed teapot, cover with boiled water and let it steep for five minutes. Flavor the brew with raw honey, vanilla and for extra richness, splash in heavy cream. This is not only dessert in a cup, but it is a wonderfully restorative tea to drink whenever you’re feeling just a bit stressed or under the weather.
Roses are soothing to the skin as well as the senses, so besides drinking this lovely brew you could pour several cups — plus one teaspoon of sweet almond oil — into your bathwater for a long soak. Middle Eastern cultures have long extolled the beauty enhancing virtues of a rosewater, milk, and honey bath. I love old-fashioned milk, and honey baths, with fragrant organic rose petals floating. This bath will leave your skin velvety, fragrant and ready for attention.
Truthfully, I’d be remiss without a few recipes using the holy trinity of passion — chocolate, wine, and roses. A simple syrup of red wine and roses creates a romantic aura and adds a warm blush to a flute of champagne. Serve with a square of dark chocolate.To make the simple wine syrup, mix two cups of dry red wine (Cotes de Rhône or a red Zinfandel) and two-thirds cup brown sugar. Pour into a heavy bottom pan and add a teaspoon ground pink peppercorn, a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest, a cinnamon stick, and three large handfuls of unsprayed rose petals. It will take about 30 minutes to gently reduce to a syrup. Then, strain, chill, and add a tablespoon or two into any glass of champagne or wine. Serve with good chocolate for nibbling.
Using the rose wine syrup create an old-fashioned cocoa rose cordial. It’s relaxing, restorative, and must be shared. Place 1 ½ teaspoons of cocoa and a teaspoon of brown sugar into a small saucepan. Boil a half cup of water. Dribble just enough water into the chocolate and sugar to make a paste. Then stir in the remaining water and a teaspoon of rose-wine syrup. Bring it to a boil and add three tablespoons of fine ruby port. Pour warm cordial into two demitasse cups. Light a fire, curl up, watch the snow fall, and dream. You can thank me later!
Wishing you the loveliest and most romantic St. Valentine’s Day!