The Rose you know…
Roses, the flowering plants, grow commonly throughout the northern hemisphere, and it’s no revelation to use them in food. There’s evidence that Romans ate rosehips, and Chinese civilisations were cooking with rose flowers as long ago as 3000BC. I first came across the flavour when I was a young cook in Melbourne where there was lots of Middle Eastern food and Arabic foods.
I love using Rosa rugosa (Japanese rose), a plant which gives you two gifts – the beautiful sherbety aromatic fruity flower petals which you can infuse straight into gin or a milky ice-cream base to give it a different, refreshing angle – and the blushing fat rouge rosehips which have an interestingly apricot-y flavour, and extremely high levels of vitamin c. Rosehips hold 2000mg per 100g fruit. Compare that to an orange which has 93mg per 100g fruit.
The discovery I’ve been really excited about recently though, is quite how many of the world’s amazing fruits and flowers are in the Rosaceae family. If you look at it from a flavour compounds point of view, you unlock the door to masses of related flavours and a lot of classical combinations make perfect sense.
… and the rest of the family
This year working with The Botanist has been a fantastic journey through plants and the flavour compounds they contain. In researching my previous article on pinene, I stumbled across the fact that Rose petals contain the pinene compound which opens up all sorts of avenues for playing with combinations.
The Rose family also holds the key to another flavour we all know and recognise thanks to its aromatic almond-iness, though we may not be aware of the name – Benzaldehyde (see this article on Meadowsweet)
The Rosaceae family includes stone fruits and relatives (genus Prunus) including almonds, cherry and peach, Apple and relatives (genus Malus) including hawthorn and quince, many fruits from the Rubus genus, such as raspberry & bramble, and the yellow-flowered cure-all Agrimony (genus Agrimonia) (Read more about the medicinal reputation of agrimony on botanical.com >)
Try Rose petals and pine, born to be together like Hall and Oates. My friend Mark Williams makes a noble-fir-based finished with a rose tincture. Juniper is rich in pinene, rose petals contain pinene, apples are in the rose family – gin, rose, and apple, already a great basis for a drink or dessert.
Try rose with mango in a dessert or a drink. Mango also contains pinene and the combination heightens the flavour profile. Interestingly, when you add sea buckthorn to rosehip cordial you end up with a very peachy, heady, almost tropical summer flavour; again peaches are a member of the rose family. Who’d have thought this was possible in Scotland!
Further food for thought
There’s lots of interesting research around flavour compounds and food combinations online; here’s a good place to start: http://winefolly.com/review/taste-flavor-pairing-chart-combinations/
Here’s a list of interesting candidates that I’ve come across in the Rosaceae family so far; they’ll be all great to make drinks and cook with. With the rose family having such a geographical spread and including more than 2400 species there are bound to be many others to be found locally, wherever you are… Have fun!
Stone fruits and relatives (genus Prunus)
almond (Prunus dulcis)
apricot (Prunus armeniaca)
blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
cherry (various Prunus species)
nectarine (Prunus persica)
peach (Prunus persica)
plum (various Prunus species)
Apple and relatives (genus Malus)
apple (Malus domestica)
crab apple (various Malus species)
hawthorn (genus Crataegus)
loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
medlar (Mespilus germanica)
pear (Pyrus communis)
quince (Cydonia oblonga)
Berries from genus Rubus
blackberry (various Rubus species)
boysenberry (Rubus ursinus)
cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
dewberry (Rubus species)
loganberry (Rubus loganobaccus)
raspberry (various Rubus species)
strawberry (genus Fragaria)
Agrimony (genus Agrimonia)
avens (genus Geum)