Is it happenstance that rhubarb and roses come into play simultaneously in the Northwest? You know that old adage, “What grows together goes together,” right?
One of the things I enjoy most about cooking is discovering new-to-me ways to use a familiar ingredient. And new-to-me flavor pairings.
Take rose petals for instance. Even though Grandma Mary’s garden was overflowing with roses, it never occurred to her–or me–to eat them. She didn’t use chemicals on her plants, so it would have been safe to take a bite of one of those lovely, velvety petals. The fragrance alone should have given us the thought.
But no one in our corner of the world ate flowers in those days. As it turns out, early American bakers used rose water in their baking, but only until the 19th century. Then vanilla extract (undoubtedly more versatile) stole the limelight and became the mainstay flavoring.
That wasn’t the case in much of Europe, however. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Phoenicians valued roses for their nutritional and medicinal properties. Rose petals were distilled into rose water and used extensively.
Today, rose water is still used heavily in Middle Eastern cuisines—especially in sweets, such as nougat, marzipan, and baklava. It’s also added judiciously to tea, ice cream, cookies, milk, yogurt, and other diary-based dishes, such as rice pudding.
If I could go back in time with my current knowledge, I would suggest that we add a handful of rose petals to Grandma’s rhubarb jam. And to her rhubarb compotes and rhubarb pies as well. I’d love to see the sparkle in her eye as the idea took shape in her imagination. She would want to taste all the rose varieties in her humongous rose garden.
My love affair with rhubarb is nearly as old as I am, but rose petal came much later via this remarkable tea. I bought it for Valentine’s Day one year because it sounded so romantic. But it was the flavor that kept me going back for tin after tin. Because it’s difficult to find in Portland markets, I now buy several tins at a time from the online source.
Once I grasped rose petal as a flavor, I began trying it with everything. First I created Rhubarb Rose Petal Caramel Syrup + 4 Variations, which has become my cornerstone spring dessert sauce. Then Rose Petal and Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta, Blueberry, Lime & Rose Petal Cheesecake, Luscious White Chocolate & Raspberry Rose Petal Cheesecake, and Green Tea & Rose Spritz.
But I’ve only just begun. Come back often to see the growing LunaCafe Rose Petal Recipe Collection.
The key thing to remember when adding the flavor of rose petals in your dishes is that a little goes a long way. The flavor is distinctive and can be strong, depending on the form.
Dried petals can be purchased in spice shops and many tea shops as well. Look for vibrantly colored petals with a strong, clean scent. Avoid petals that are dull in color and musty smelling. If you plan to dry or otherwise preserve your own rose petals, harvest or buy roses that have not be subjected to chemical fertilizers or sprays. Organic roses in other words. (Whole Foods is purported to carry organic roses.) And always use food grade rose water, rose extract, and rose essential oil, not products intended for aroma therapy or skin care.
12 Inspired Rhubarb + Rose Petal Recipes
Now every spring I indulge in a whirlwind tour of the web, looking for adventurous cooks who are as fascinated as I am by by the rhubarb and rose petal flavor pairing. Oh the inspiration!
Here are the most enticing rhubarb and rose petal recipes I’ve found so far. (The photos are titled and linked. Just click to go to the original post and recipe.)
You’ll want to read about the trials and tribulations that went into perfecting this gooey, caramelized rhubarb, rose water and cornmeal-enhanced upside-down cake. Perfection takes determination and sometimes a little help from a few friends. I think they got it just right.
I love deconstructed, make ahead desserts like this. All of the elements go together at the last minute, ensuring the whipped cream stays whipped and the pastry crumbles stay crunchy. And seriously, how can you go wrong with a fruit compote of baby rhubarb, raspberries, rose-water, and vanilla?
Marshmallows look exotic, but they’re actually a breeze to make. The deep fruity-vegetal flavor of poached rhubarb is augmented perfectly here with wildflower honey and rose petal. Does it get more romantic than this?
I’m serving these stunning rhubarb and rosewater jam-filled shortbread cookies at my next tea party. With maybe a few rose petals strewn on the table. They’ll be gone in two minutes flat.
What I love about this crumble, besides the rhubarb-almond-rose water-vanilla flavor profile, is that the crumble looks super crunchy, not sodden. The juxtaposition of meltingly tender rose- and vanilla-enhanced fresh rhubarb with almond meal crumble in a winning combination.
Rhubarb and strawberries, macerated until juicy in crème de cassis, vanilla, and rose water, encased in a tender pastry crust fragrant with orange peel. Simply gorgeous.
Only a fool would resist these pretty layers of pink and white, spiked here and there with pale green. Especially when the pink layer is rhubarb poached in Sauvignon Blanc and rose water, the white layer is whipped crème fraîche laced with cardamom, and the pale green spikes of color are roasted pistachios.
Oh the British and their romantic jams. This one is a softly set melange (more a compote than a true jam) of rhubarb, cardamom, rose petal, and lemon. Lovely over Greek yogurt. rice pudding, or cheese blintz.
For these beautiful bundts, brown butter, rose water, and almond flour combine to make an ultra light cake, which is then studded with vibrant bursts of rhubarb. Whipped coconut milk creates a most unusual topping, giving the dessert a tropical bent.
If you’ve been meaning to try the rather surprising ice cream technique espoused in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which I rave about here, now’s your chance. Rhubarb, strawberries, and rosewater meld in a delicious compote and then twirl through the creamiest ice cream you’ve ever eaten.
We talked about several ways to infuse the flavor of roses into a dessert–dried rose petals, rose water, rose extract, rose oil–but almost failed to mention one of the most charming ways ever, namely the leaves of rose-scented geraniums, which although they’re in the botanical family Geraniaceae, are actually a Pelargonium species. Be sure to tuck a few plants into your garden this year, as they’re nearly impossible to find outside of a nursery. In this straight-forward tart, rhubarb is macerated with brown sugar, vanilla, and a few rose geranium leaves before being arranged on pastry and baked. Rustic and elegant at the same time.
Can this dish possibly be any prettier? And so simple to prepare. The rhubarb is poached very briefly in rose water and vanilla syrup, so it’s cooked but retains its shape. What a lovely topping for Greek yogurt (breakfast) or custard flan (dessert). Look for honeycomb at your local farmers market.
Rhubarb + Rose Petal Recipe Roundup
- Coconut Rice Pudding With Rose And Rhubarb Jelly | Multiculti Kitchen
- Deconstructed Rhubarb Tart With Rose And Vanilla | Chocolate Chilli Mango
- Fluffy Rose & Rhubarb Honey-Sweetened Marshmallows | Nourishing Joy
- Rhubarb & Rose Custard Creams With Crystallized Petals | BBC Good Food
- Rhubarb and Rose Compote | Edible Ireland
- Rhubarb and Rose Scones | Chevrons and Éclairs
- Rhubarb and Rose Shortbread | Daily Mail
- Rhubarb And Rose Upside Down Cake | The Garum Factory
- Rhubarb And Rosewater Crumble | Cook Republic
- Rhubarb and Strawberry Hand Pies with Rose, Vanilla and Crème De Cassis | Gourmantine
- Rhubarb Fool with Cardamom Cream | The Wall Street Journal
- Rhubarb & Rose Coconut Frosted Bundts | Baking in Pyjamas
- Rhubarb, Rose And Cardamom Jam | Diane Henry
- Rhubarb, Rose Geranium & Vanilla Tarts | This is Glamorous
- Rhubarb, Rose Geranium And Vanilla Tarts | The Dailys
- Rhubarb-Rose Ice Cream | Three Clever Sisters
- Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries with Rose Geranium and Prosecco | Good Food
- Roasted Rhubarb With Rose Water And Strawberry Sorbet | Epicurious
- Rose Poached Rhubarb with Honeycomb Yogurt | Butter and Brioche