Summer adventure #1 is underway.
For several years now, I’ve made rose-hip syrup in the fall when the hips are ripe and soft. I use the syrup on peanut butter-slathered waffles. Rose hips do not taste like roses smell; they have a flavor unto themselves.
Last year, my friend, Beck, gave me a bottle of pretty pink rose-petal syrup. The sweet, delicate appearance alone made me want to love it: Smooth, translucent pink . . . it looks delicious and refreshing, even dainty and romantic.
I’d never had rose-petal syrup before. It did, indeed, taste like roses smell; it’s a whisper of a flavor. I stretched my portion as far as it would go, sweetening green tea with it, drizzling it over waffles, on granola, and more.
For years, my favorite tea has been Stash’s Jasmine Blossom Green Tea. (Heads up: affiliate link) I adore the subtle flower flavor.
Petal collecting has two rules: 1 – roses must be pesticide-free; 2 – scent = flavor, so fragrant roses only, please.
Here at my largely uncultivated, edge-of-wilderness Alaska home, that means wild prickly roses (Rosa acicularis). A good many grow in our tundra yard, and more grow along the road. Since I also want rose hips come fall, and since I’m averse to killing beautiful growing things, I take 2 or 3 of the 5 petals from a blossom, and leave the rest to attract pollinators and add (albeit lopsided) color to the landscape. Unless, of course, I’m harvesting whole buds to dry, which I have also done. “Harvest” sounds so much better than “kill” or “take for my own pleasure or purposes.”
The first time I came home with a bucket of soft, fragrant petals, I followed one website’s instructions for rose-petal syrup and muddled them with sugar, leaving them in the fridge overnight before boiling with water and more sugar to make syrup.
I saved a small handful of petals from that first batch to make a cup of rose-petal tea. Again, I looked up recipes on the Internet, and was pretty confident when I poured hot water over my lovely pink petals: Very quickly I would see the color leach out of the petals and tint my water. One source advised me to remove the petals as soon as the color transferred; others suggested I could leave the petals in without any bitter repercussions.
None of them led to me believe I’d wind up with tasteless warm green water.
But I did. Go figure. I still drank it.
The following day, the syrup I made from my muddled petals turned out to be green-brown and not so tasty. Not at all like Beck’s syrup last year or the syrups pictured on the blogs I was reading.
On one hand, bummer; I was looking forward to delicate, flower-flavored yumminess. On the other hand, interesting! Here was a murky mystery I could embrace with my garden-calloused hands.
I picked another bucket of petals. I tried a different rose-petal syrup recipe: This one soaked the petals in water overnight, then boiled with sugar the following day. Mind you, I didn’t blame the previous recipe. I just like trying different things. The petals-muddled-in-sugar recipe was the one Beck had used successfully last year, so I don’t doubt it’s a good one.
No, I was pretty sure my soft well water was to blame, so this time I used some ancient bottled water stashed in my garage.
Again, I pulled out a handful of petals to have another go at rose-petal tea. To my surprise, the water was still greenish—it’s pink in the pictures on other blogs—but it tasted like roses smell. Partial success!
I also put a few handfuls in the dehydrator, having read some syrup and tea recipes that utilize dried petals and buds.
The bottled water in which I was soaking the petals for syrup remained clear even though the petals became translucent. When I made syrup with the soaked petals the following day, the result was, indeed, pink. And rosy tasting. Again, success!
Beck was out last weekend, and we enjoyed another petal pick. Yeah, roses are abundant here. She muddled hers to take home, and I had another go with my well water, this time aiming for rose water.
Allowing the petals to soak in room-temperature well water: Success. The water is clear and tastes rosy.
Boiling water and petals in well water: Fail. The water is green and doesn’t taste rosy. That batch is now fortifying the raspberries.
So the well water is only a problem when it’s heated.
Beck went home and made syrup. Maybe it’s the lighting, or maybe her syrup really is that much darker than mine. It’s hard to say. Yet. I’m going to find out: Beck left me several gallons of water from her tap, and I have a batch of muddled petals waiting in the fridge.
All right biochemist friends (Sharon and Amy, I’m looking at you), what’s the deal with my water and rose petals? Maybe the sulphur is reacting with some rose compound when heated. Maybe the soft water is pulling out something other than the pink color, like chlorophyll. Should I be concerned?