Rose as herb


In choosing an herb of the year, the International Herb Society considers "being outstanding in at least two of the three major categories - medicinal, culinary or decorative." The rose, surely, shines in all three.

Roses - their hips, especially - have long been important in herbal medicine. The main ones used for this purpose are the old species roses, including the red rose of Lancaster, and Rosa rugosa, one of my faves, otherwise known as the hedgehog or Japanese rose, according to The Ultimate Herb Book by Antony Atha, which covers more than 200 herbs and is a reference I use frequently.

Rose hips are sold in lots of places today as a source of vitamin C. Essential rose oil is a player in aromatherapy and dried roses are almost always part of potpourri mixes designed to soothe the nerves.

Culinarily speaking, if that's even a word, rose petals make amazing deserts. I'm remembering an Indian restaurant in New York and a dish of pale pink ice cream. Rose water is used in jellies and jams and all sorts of baked goods, too.

For most of us, however, roses are just plain beautiful, some with the added benefit of fragrance. They captivate us. So while it may sound strange to think of roses as herbs, do it this one time!

Some of the other winners of this herb-of-the-year business are more traditional - fennel, sage, basil and dill. Coming next year - what, no drama? - the IHS will be naming elderberry to the top spot.