The grizzled old warrior looked out across the battlefield. The victory was theirs but it was hard won. At the onset of the fighting a hail of arrows fell in waves. His men’s armor was strong but there had been casualties. He felt a pinch in the side of his neck. The head of a broken arrow was caught in the chainmail. The mail had saved his life but the head of the arrow penetrated enough to cut him. A priest came to his side and removed the armor. Imeadiatly the priest produced an amber bottle of rose water to clense the wound. Without the vital liquid, the arrow would still be able to do it’s job many days from now.
One of the most common plants to be found in almost all climates is the rose. We tend to think of the rose as a symbol of love and the saver if absent minded husbands but there’s so much more. The short fiction above highlights one of the oldest uses for roses. A simple unsweetened tea made from rose pedals was once the preferred antiseptics. Rose water doesn’t just smell pretty. It’s rich in vitamin C which not only kills bacteria but also feeds the tissue as it heals. The sweet scent covers the smell of an open wound and therefore may help prevent insects from bothering it. But it gets better. There are more recipes that call for roses than I have room for in a single post.
One of the first herbal manuals that I ever purchased is Reader’s Digest “Herbs” ( ISB 0-89577-355-4) which suggests that the pedals can be used in salads, pies, syrups, flavored vinegar, sorbets and sweets. And the MacMillan Treasury Of Herbs ( ISBN 0-02-513470-1) has a recipe for rose pedal jam. It’s not surprising to me that there would be a lot of culinary uses for the flowers since in most cases the fruit is rather small and packed with seeds. However, the hips are also used in several of the teas.
Domestic Rose in all of it’s wonderful varieties is the most popular but it’s also a needy plant. One that I’ve struggled to keep alive and healthy. But Multiflora Rose is one that was brought in to be a “living fence” in the 1860s and quickly became invasive. It’s just as fragrant but the hips are small. Multiflora Rose is favored by a lot of songbirds and they seem to spread it well. Fortunately, it can be used in most of the same ways that the domestic roses can it just needs less encouragement to grow.
While Multiflora Rose is considered to be a pest at least it’s a pest that has some virtue.
The best hips are said to come from the Dog Rose. Like Multiflora Rose, Dog Rose has a simple bloom but a much larger hip. I also understand that it’s a much lower maintenance rose than domestic roses.
If you’re curious about using roses the ISBN numbers are posted along with book titles that used as a reference to the article and I’m presuming that the internet has ton of Victorian treats to explore. In full confsession I have not gotten around to trying any more than just a nibble of Multiflora Rose Hips so it’s one of those plants that I’m waiting to try this fall. I’ll post a follow-up article to let you know how it turned out.
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