The Weekly Gardener 1

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What to do with roses

Health and Beauty

Yellow Rose

There is no better flower for mature and thinning skin than the rose. It restores the complexion to its elastic, youthful glow, and it does so in the most gentle way. Its active compounds lock moisture in while they nourish, tighten, and restore the skin, especially one that has started showing signs of age or sun damage. The contribution of the rose to beauty regimens, however, goes far beyond its physical properties. Roses speak to the heart, soothe the mind, and lift the spirit, almost like magic, and when the spirit feels younger, the body follows suit.

You don't have to devise elaborate beauty treatments to take advantage of its therapeutic qualities, the rose is sophisticated enough in itself. Even the simplest things will be pampering and effective: rose water used as toner, to refine the pores and calm the skin, a few drops of rose otto blended in jojoba oil to cleanse and moisturize your complexion at the end of the day, a handful of dried rose petals ground into a find dust to add to a clay mask or to a fragrant bath salt, a rose infusion to use for a quick steam facial, even something as simple as adding rose petals to your bath.

In fact, the less you do with the rose, the more powerful its impact. Its classic scent blends well with almost any fragrance, a feature which makes it a must have for perfumery, but keep its essence unaltered. Use it alone, whether it be in a toner, a lotion, a bath oil or a cream, to better appreciate its exquisite fragrance and its health enhancing properties.

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Ruby Sweets

Buttercups

Where I grew up, roses belonged in the pantry. Between the rose preserves, the rose syrups, and the rose water in pastry dough, the aristocratic flowers doubled up as bona fide cooking ingredients.

What do roses taste like? They are a bit of an acquired taste. Rose preserves are extremely fragrant, they make you feel almost like you are eating perfume, and their principal ingredient, the delicate petals, vigorously scrubbed with sugar and lemon until their velvety surfaces become thin and translucent like rice paper, screech between your teeth refusing to be chewed. Their texture reminds me of cellophane.

The confection is very concentrated, you can't eat more than one delightful teaspoon at a time, and it feels almost sinful to taste the ruby colored mouthful of fragrant petals, which seem reserved for beings above the human condition.

The finished preserves, jams and jellies become cooking ingredients in and of themselves in due time, and end up rolled inside crepes and pastries, tinting fine custards and filling beignets.

If you want to try your hand at making rose petal preserves, keep in mind that the rose variety is very important. Only the most fragrant damasks will do for this purpose, Kazanlik and Rose de Rescht are traditionally used. I have seen white preserve roses, but I've never seen the preserves themselves. The exotic delicacy is almost always a deep ruby, the trademark color of this old fashioned treat. Rubbing the petals with lemon juice helps maintain the color intensity.

I'm sitting here, sipping a delightful cup of rose petal tea, and it tastes very much like the rose preserves I remember from my childhood. I wonder why I never thought of trying it before.