Stop, Smell and Eat the Roses

Recipe: Strawberry Rose Cupcakes

I’m not a big fan of the house we’ve been renting for the past 10 months. It’s a vanilla-bland subdivision, 3-car garage, late- twentieth century sprawl-special. The dogs get a lot out of the ¼ acre yard, but being surrounded by such relentless, plastic same-ness depresses me.  I can’t wait to live in an old-fashioned neighborhood again.

But I will miss the roses. The property has six rose bushes– and four of them are prolific bloomers. I haven’t lived with roses like this in a long time. My father loved roses. The entire south side of my childhood home was covered in them. Dad kept them blooming May through November, most years.  And every few days, he cut bouquets for me –even when I was 17 and he and I could barely have a civil conversation.

I think maximizing sunshine and heat  may have been his secret formula– I’ve had a few rosebushes as a homeowner, but I’ve never had much luck with them; a bloom here and there, and in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of black spot problems. But none of those roses have ever had the sunshine Boise gets – or a special protected hot spot to grow in, like the one my dad created for his roses.

Dad’s favorite roses were yellow. And now they’re my favorites too.

I always wondered what the hell my parents were thinking painting our house black, but now I think it might have been to create reflected sunlight, for the roses and the other heat loving plants they grew under my bedroom window. Both Mom and Dad were passionate landscape gardeners, so I think I think this explanation is at least plausible.

In June I was picking roses nearly every day and since I knew nothing worse than compost and fish emulsion had been a part of their diet this year, I had big plans for the rose petal crop; something  more dramatic tossing them into salad  –though I recommend that too. I wanted to try distilling rose water, an ingredient I always have on hand for Indian sweets.

But the logistics of our decision to move back to Seattle put an end to that ambition. I haven’t even been picking the blossoms as often as I should in the last month – and if you don’t pick the flowers, the bushes quickly move out of prime production.

But the individual petals are still perfect – and candied they are a lovely garnish for these Strawberry Rose cupcakes.  I’m trying to use up everything in my freezer right now, and the strawberries and rhubarb that I’d carefully set aside to make a pie became the quick-jam filling that brings these cupcakes to life.

I don’t think I’m going to paint the south side of my house black when we get home, but I am delighted to know that under the right conditions, I can grow roses almost as well as my Dad did. And I hope the next steward of these bushes takes as much delight in them as I have.


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