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wild roses honey

How to Make Herbal Honey with Wild Roses

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Lessons From Wild Rose, Plus a Delicious Treat

During the month of June, my valley is filled with pink wild roses. This is one of my favorite times of year! I can hardly believe that a plant so beautiful and so fragrant grows so freely all around me.

While roses have been adored for their beauty for thousands of years, they are more than a pretty face and scent. They offer us powerful medicine for decreasing both emotional and physical pain, for healing wounds, and for decreasing systemic inflammation such as arthritis.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned from wild roses.

Scent Is a Powerful Way to Alter Your Mood

Try taking a deep breath from the heart of a rose flower. Can you feel its immediate effect of opening and cheering your heart? Herbalists commonly use roses to mend a broken heart and to support someone going through grief, sadness and depression. Herbalist David Winston recommends rose petals in combination with hawthorn leaves and mimosa bark for grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome.1

Roses Can Cause and Cure Physical Pain

If you’ve ever been hip deep in a rose bramble or were a little too unaware around roses, then you became immediately aware of its defense mechanism. Rose thorns can easily snag skin and clothing, leaving a painful reminder that there is more to roses than beauty.

But while roses can leave their scratches, they can also be used to heal wounds and relieve pain. All parts of the rose plant have long been used to heal both external and internal wounds. In his book, Native American Ethnobotany, Daniel Moerman has recorded numerous uses of roses by Native Americans. One common wild rose species, Rosa woodsii, was used extensively by the Paiute in topical applications for boils, sunburns, sores, cuts, swellings and wounds. The Okanogan-Colville used chewed leaves as a poultice for bee stings.2

Roses Teach Presence and Awareness

My husband and I have done a fair bit of wildcrafting, and out of all the plants we’ve harvested and tended in the wild, gathering rose petals is my favorite sensorial experience. We often set out in the morning with our mesh gathering bags in hand. We feel the warm sun on our skin and hear the call of the songbirds around us. As we approach the rose brambles, we can often hear the buzz of bees before the roses are in sight. If it’s a hot day and the wind is just right, the scent of roses rushes to greet us before we’ve even bend down to meet the flowers with our noses. As we begin to harvest, I savor the silky feel of the petals on my fingers.

But, I can’t get too wrapped up in the beauty of it all. Otherwise I may brush too nonchalantly against the thorns or reach for a flower without looking…and you never know what’s hiding in the heart of a rose. Here’s what I saw while out harvesting the other day.

Tips for Harvesting Wild Roses

Today I want to share some wild rose harvesting tips with you along with one of my favorite ways to enjoy wild roses: rose petal honey.

When I harvest rose petals to infuse into honey, I like to gather the best petals I can find. The first thing I do is make sure I am harvesting in an area that is free from pesticides and herbicides. Next I want to make sure that I am harvesting from an area where the roses are abundant so I can be sure to leave plenty of roses for the bees and other insects.

Before I harvest, I smell the roses to make sure they are fragrant. While all of our wild roses are fragrant, I’ve found they have more scent when harvested in the earlier part of the day rather than the evening.

To harvest the petals, I first tap the flower gently to help any insects in the flower find their exit. I then cup my fingers behind the petals and gently tug on them. If they don’t immediately let go I move on to a different flower.

Once I have enough petals for my honey, I take them home and lay them out in a tray on the porch to further help any small critters find their way out.

If you don’t have wild roses growing around you I suggest you move to an area that does. It’s worth it! Okay, kidding aside, you can use domesticated roses, however you want to make sure they haven’t been sprayed and that they have a strong scent. Heritage varieties adapted to your region require little effort to grow. If they don’t have a scent, then find different roses. Never use roses from florist shops since those roses have been sprayed with all sorts of chemicals.

Rose Petal Honey

This is a simple treat to make that tastes incredibly luxurious. We make this every spring, but never seem to make enough. We drizzle it on pancakes, French toast, ice cream, oatmeal, and, as seen in the photos, les petits palmiers (a French pastry).

What you’ll need…

  • a small jar
  • enough rose petals to fill the jar gently
  • honey to fill the jar (I use local honey I get from a beekeeping friend)
  • Need herbs? Visit Mountain Rose Herbs.

Once your rose petals have been cleared of any insects, place them into your jar. Put in enough roses that you gently fill the jar but they aren’t completely crammed in there. (Unless they are dusty there is no need to wash the rose petals. In fact your honey will be stronger in flavor if you don’t rinse them.)

Next fill the jar with honey. Because I use local honey that hasn’t been processed, my honey is often hard and crystalized. I like to gently warm the honey to make sure it has a syrup-like consistency. Being slightly warmed and more fluid helps it to better infuse the petals. (If you keep the temperature of the honey below 95 degrees F., you will still maintain the characteristics of the raw honey.)

I often add the honey in two steps. First I fill the rose petal jar with honey and stir it well to release air bubbles. Then I add more honey to fill the jar again.

I recommend waiting at least three days before you eat the honey. The honey will pull out the moisture from the roses, infusing it with their perfumed flavor. There is no need to strain the petals and we keep our rose petal honey on the counter. If you live in a warmer climate you may want to keep it in the fridge.

This honey will keep for a long time (if it lasts that long!). Last year we didn’t make nearly enough, so we avoided taking out the petals when we used it and then kept refilling the jar with honey when it got low. This year we will definitely be making more.

Remember not to give honey to kids under one year of age.

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Rosalee de la Forêt

Written by Rosalee de la Forêt

Rosalee de la Forêt is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She’s a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. Explore Rosalee's website and podcastAll content and photos in this article are © Rosalee de la Forêt.

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