“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” Maud Hart Lovelace
It’s been a whole year since I first started working on the “Gather Cookbook” for Gather Patrons. And since I’m going to be adding some new summer solstice recipes to the cookbook this June, I thought I’d release a few of last year’s recipes – so the rest of you can see what you’re missing! First up – Chunky Rose Petal Pesto!
Rose petal pesto might sound strange, but roses have perfumed sweet and savoury cuisines around the world for hundreds of years. This pesto has all the yummy, savoury flavour of basil, garlic, toasted nuts, romano & parmesan cheese, but with an additional gorgeous layer of rosy floral flavour.
Best known for use in confections, Persians used rose petals to make wine; the Iranians to make jam; Greeks used rose water in Baklava, the English to flavour butter and cakes. But they were often added to savoury dishes like rice and couscous.
And in summer they are a delicious addition to salads, fruit tarts, pairing especially well with strawberries, raspberries, peaches, rhubarb, pistachios, almonds, coconut, and cardamom. And chocolate!
All roses are edible. They belong to the Rosaceae family, which contains fruits such as apples, pears, but it is most closely related to strawberries! Plus, they’re high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, B-complex, calcium and antioxidants. Medicinally they’re said to help soothe inflamed tissues inside and out, help to lower high blood pressure and support healthy gut flora.
When it comes to choosing your roses, let your nose guide you. Keep in mind that a strongly flavoured rose, like Rugosa, is called for here! Domesticated garden roses hardly have any fragrance, it is usually the wild or old vintage varieties (like English Tea Roses) that have the most scent.
Wild roses have five pink or white petals, while garden cultivars may have many more. Different roses have different aromas and flavours (from peachy, lemony to vanilla) depending on the variety.
Just make sure whatever roses you’re using haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Also, don’t wash your roses as it will compromise the delicate volatile oils. Give them a few good shakes in a sieve to clear off any clinging debris and then lay them out on a dry surface, newspaper or paper towels for an hour (to lose any critters living amongst the petals).
Many recipes recommend removing the heel of the rose (the white part of the petal at the base) because it can be bitter. I have never removed them and it’s worked out just fine – but again – now you know. I don’t like my rose pesto over processed, into turns into a mushy pinkish green, not very appetizing. It’s much prettier left chunky- but you can process into any consistency you like. I served them with my Nettle & Flaxseed Crackers (recipe in the Gather Cookbook!)
Chunky Rose Petal Pesto
- Two cups fresh basil
- One cup rose Petals
- 4 peeled garlic cloves
- 1 cup toasted walnuts
- 1 cup of olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon rosewater
- 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 cup of freshly grated Romano Cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine everything in the food processor – but hold back 1/4 cup of the rose petals.
- Give it a few short whirs (pulses) so it has a chunky texture.
- Remove into a bowl.
- Mince your remaining rose petals finely.
- Blend minced petals into your pesto. Leave a few for garnishing.