The Wildest Rose: On Thorns, Tangles, Tenacity and Sweetness
This post is part of the July Wild Things Roundup, a great blogparty-type event created and hosted by my student Rebecca of Cauldrons & Crockpots and Butter of Hunger & Thirst focused on recipes and info about foraging wild foods. I always enjoy all the great posts they put together for each month but thus far hadn’t been able to make time to participate myself. With July’s theme being Wild Rose though, how could I NOT join in? Also, if you don’t already follow the aforementioned blogs, I highly recommend them.
I work with Rosa spp. extensively in my practice and have a personal affinity with it. Every May I hike through riparian canyons and mountain meadows in search of one of my most beloved plant allies. The most common local species is Rosa woodsii, a common Western wild rose that rambles across riverbanks, canyon walls and the borders of upper elevation swamps.
Even this year in the midst of drought and fire I found a few roses blooming. Perhaps the most striking scene was during my drive up into the White Mountains for the first time after the Wallow Fire swept through eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. There on the side of a road in the middle of the burned out forest, surrounded by ash and blackened trees was a single Wild Rose bush, untouched and covered with late blooming flowers that were fragrant in the muggy heat of late June.
With its sweet flowers, rambling ways and formidable thorns the Wild Rose serves as something of a personal emblem and role model for me. In general, I tend to relate at least as well to plants as I do people and usually prefer their company, especially when I’m stressed, overtired or upset. Spending time with Roses, especially the crazy haphazard hedges that grow head-high along the river here in the canyon, is both nourishing and challenging to my inherently pitta-fied ways. Their curved thorns brazenly grab and hold my skirts whenever I try to hurriedly maneuver among the plants to gather their petals… and the more I move the more tangled I end up. Until I learn to stand still and sort skirt from thorn which causes me to slow down long enough to breathe in the entirely intoxicating scent of the flowers combined with the musky aroma of the red-tinted leaves.
The medicine of Rose is not only in the lessons that entangled interaction can bring, but also as a traditional remedy throughout its growing range. While often mostly thought of as a pretty flower or invasive nuisance (Multifloras), they don’t always get their due in regards to clinical significance. I’d be hard pressed to imagine my practice without Rosa’s amazing nervine, cooling, mood enhancing anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, astringent, bioflavonoid-rich medicine. Whether for gut inflammation, sunburns, anxiety or constitutional heat, this common herb’s actions are widely applicable and incredibly useful. I won’t belabor the point here as I’ve already written a great deal about this plant previously. Check out the links below for more of my Rose-centered ramblings:
Wild Rose Birthday Feast
When my 31st birthday rolled around recently in the second week of July we celebrated in traditional canyon feasting form, and I spent much of the day happily in the kitchen listening to Ukrainian and Romani music while cooking. For the dessert I decided to prepare Wild Rose Baklava and Spiced Wild Rose Ice Cream. Considering the drought this year, I was extra grateful that I’d stockpiled so much Wild Rose infused honey over the last couple of years. The fresh flower infused honey was the perfect consistency to blend with the crushed pecans for a flavorful yet delicate confection that was indulgent but not overly sweet.
While I certainly enjoy the traditional Rosewater flavor present in many traditional Baklava recipes, I have to say that the addition of Wild Rose to the mix definitely increased my love of this particular dish, accentuating the rich butter flavor and adding a wilder note to the whole affair. Next time around I might use the Wild Rose infused honey in the nut mixture again while making a Cinnamon spiced Wild Rosehip syrup to drizzle over whipped cream to top the baklava. Below you’ll find my approximate recipe, as always please feel free to experiment and adapt to your personal tastes.
Wild Rose Baklava
As most of my regular readers already know, I’m not one for exact recipes. Consider my instructions to be guidelines and remember to taste and adjust according to personal taste as you go along. There are many many regional variations on baklava, my recipe is based loosely on Claudia Roden’s Turkish recipe from her New Book of Middle Eastern Food. However, mine is a creamy variation (somewhat like the Turkish muhallebili baklava) which helps hold the nut filling together since I use far less sugar/honey than most recipes and also includes a Persian influenced spice blend. You can also use your favorite recipe and just substitute rose infused honey or add Rose water to the sugar syrup.
Some people are intimidated by making baklava, but really, it’s super simple and easy if somewhat time consuming with all that butter brushing and dough layerings.
- 1 /2 batch or 1/2 package of phyllo dough
- 1-1.5 C butter roasted Pecans (or similar nut), coarsely ground
- 1 package cream cheese, warmed until soft
- 1-2 sticks melted butter to brush on phyllo dough (more or less depending on how you feel about butter )
- 1/2 C Wild Rose infused honey (Yes, you can use any Rose infused honey you like the taste of. This is just standard Rose petal infused honey, you can even leave the petals in the honey if you like the texture rather than straining them out). You may want more honey than this. I don’t care for very sweet desserts, so if you have a serious sweet tooth, you’ll want to adjust for that.
- 1-2 Tbs Rose water (optional)
- 1 Tbs Orange zest, finely chopped
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1 Tsp Vanilla extract
- 1/2 Tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Cardamom
- 1-2 Tsp salt
- Pre-heat oven to 300 F
- Butter a square baking pan
- In a mixing bowl combine nuts, rose water, orange zest, vanilla, salt, all spices and 1/4 C Rose infused honey. If you’re using fresh Rose infused honey then the honey should be thin enough to pour and mix well. If you used dry petals, you may need to warm it in order to mix it.
- Fold in cream cheese.
- Blend until smooth. Add more spices etc., to taste. Then set aside
- If using packaged phyllo dough, remove dough from package and cut appr. in half or a little larger than your pan. Wrap one half in damp cloth or similar and return to a cool place.
- Begin laying the sheets of phyllo dough, one at a time, brushing butter over each layer as you go. If your sheets of dough are somewhat rectangular even after cutting in half (this is normal), just layer it so that you rotate how you lay the long side in the pan so it ends up fairly even. Layer half of the phyllo dough.
- Spread the nut/spice/honey mixture evenly over the sheets.
- Cover with remaining phyllo dough sheets, remembering to butter between each layer.
- With a very sharp knife, cut diagonal parallel lines about 2 inches apart in diamond shapes. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom.
- At this point, I often add more butter by pouring some into the cut areas.
- Of course most people bake their baklava in their oven. However, it was way too hot in our cabin to have the woodstove going so I cooked mine by putting the baking pan inside in a large cast iron pan with a pot lid over it and cooked it on the propane stovetop over low heat for about 45 min. It worked great, and I just browned the top by warming each piece in a pan face down before serving. Most of my readers probably won’t want to mess with my elaborate parlor tricks, so just figure baking in the oven for about 30-45 min at 300 F or until golden brown.
- Then pour remaining Rose honey over the top of the still warm baklava and let it soak in a bit before serving.
- Top with whipped cream or ice cream as you like.
We ate ours warm topped by homemade Wild Rose ice cream while sitting in the garden with the beginning of a summer rain falling on us.
©2011 Kiva Rose