How to Make Herbal Honey with Wild Roses

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

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Rose 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.

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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.

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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)

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Citations

  1. Winston, David. Differential Treatment of Depression and Anxiety with Botanical Medicines Herbalist & Alchemist | Store. Accessed May 25, 2015. http://www.herbalist-alchemist.com/item/Differential-Treatment-of-Depression-and-Anxiety-with-Botanical-Medicines-1207.
  2. Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1998. Pp. 482-486.

 

59 comments
    • Rosalee de la Forêt says:

      “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.”

  1. Heather says:

    Very lovely, thanks. I live in Alberta, also known as “Wild Rose Country”, so much so that it used to be on our license plates. I made some rose elixir last year and it is lovely.

    • simona says:

      How have you made the rose elixir? I lve in Montreal, and I do not have wild roses arond, I grow them i the garden wthout any pesticides.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Wild Rose honey is my absolute favorite! I, too, make it every summer and find that it never lasts long :) I also love to make wild rose vinegar and wild rose elixir. Beautiful photos, Rosalee!

  3. heather says:

    We had an abundance of roses this year bloom early. I collected to petals and let them dry. I’m still looking for uses for all of them. Can I make this with dry petals? (Air dried)

      • Lilliane says:

        So glad you said that! I’ve got some dried petals I’m going to try it out with this weekend. I made a cinnamon & rose petal blend for cooking with that’s lovely on roasted chicken. I expect the honey will be even tastier!

    • jay9cobb says:

      I dry my petals and use it to make rose honey and it’s delicious. If you want something that is pure decadence you can power your petals by drying them first and then putting then in a coffee grinder and then mixing them with the honey. Utter luxury. You only want about 1 teaspoon per serve and it is amazing in hot water as a tea.

  4. Carol says:

    I haven’t seen wild roses in my location, Arizona. Can you use the common garden variety? Is there a special variety you can buy? Thanks so much. Enjoy all your lessons.

    • Rosalee de la Forêt says:

      “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.”

  5. sageywoman says:

    I make rose petal wine and rose hip jam .I used to gather wild rose hips on the continental divide in New Mexico in the winter in the high mountain meadows . I use an old china heritage rose that has been around since my childhood as well as rose hip flowers and the petals of all the different roses in the gardens for the wine The pink spring blooming china rose has the best smell of all. The wine is a sweet light Rose’ that tastes like roses.It was an idea given to me by my mother in law

  6. johnhutchens1 says:

    I enjoy wild roses and make wild rose petal jam to enjoy in the winter. It makes for a wonderful breakfast treat , I also use it as icing on cupcakes.

  7. Lucinda says:

    I have made a mild, wild-rose “perfume” by infusing petals in vodka. After they have infused – it doesn’t seem to take long – I put the infusion in a small spray bottle. Sometimes I have to do a double infusion to intensify the scent a little. The scent doesn’t last forever on your skin or in your hair or just sprayed into the air over your head to clear the energy, but it is wonderful for a few moments and I can catch a few whiffs of it again periodically if my skin gets moist.

  8. Joyce Cox says:

    I don’t know if we have ,Wild Roses here in South Africa, or is it the Flora Bunda, As you can see , I don’t know much about roses except that they are very beautiful and smell Devine , not all of them anymore..

  9. Mid says:

    Just strained my rose petal honey, it was so thick with petals. I may use less next time as our old fashioned-heirloom roses we inherited from my husband’s grandparents are intensely fragrant! I left mine in the raw honey for 6 days, and it’s intoxicating and amazingly flavorful. I also make rose petal tea with freshly picked roses. Right now I have petals infusing in witch hazel, organic olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar. I intend to make salve and lip balm as soon as my rosehip seed oil and alkanet root powder arrives from Rose Mountain Herbs. And I am getting a bottle of vodka to make a tincture. Sooo excited and busy gathering, as the roses are abundant but do not repeat!

  10. Cécile Pollé says:

    thank you for your pretty recipe. I myself made a rose petals sirop and it smells always very nice when you drink this.
    And also put it on my selfmade soap.

  11. Christy says:

    Does it matter what color the rose petals are and what type of honey you use? I have some pure local sourwood honey and many different colors of roses planted on our farm. We don’t use pesticides.

    • Rosalee de la Forêt says:

      I like to use my local honey. As for the roses here’s an excerpt from above, “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.”

  12. Laura Plumb says:

    Thanks, Rosalee, Of your many brilliant posts this is one of the best, including photographs that put us right in the middle of the five sensory action and delight. As an Ayurvedi, I make rose petal jam every summer. I love blending with dates for a more cooling treat, but certainly will try this for its sugar free simplicity! And for your reader who only has dry, I’ve gently warmed dried roses in a bit of water, strain and use quickly before the water pulls all the goodness out. Blessings to all of you healing souls!

  13. ameliaameister says:

    i was told by another wildcrafter that if you leave one petal on the rose that the bees will still be able to find the pollen/nectar, so you can harvest and still leave *everything* for the bees!

  14. Rafaela says:

    yum yum! I’ll try this rose-honey next =)
    made some rose-syrup and jelly these days – delicious!

  15. Judith Liebaert says:

    I just came indoors from harvesting my rose petals to find this email. I have a heavily fragrant rugosa rose right outside my back door, and I also harvest wild roses from a nearby open prairie bird sanctuary. I am collecting and drying most of my petals for use in tinctures later, but today I’m trying my first attempt at making rose hydrosol

    Fifteen years ago, before I knew anything at all about wildcrafting and herbalism, I made rose petal jelly following a recipe I found for violet jelly (basically you need more pectic to make it jell). I didn’t know it then, but instinct was guiding me as I was experience a very difficult and grief-filled period. Just the way you describe the rose honey, it had that delicate flavor that tastes exactly like roses smell! And eating it seemed to cheer me up.

    I have since made rose wine. I used old grandfather’s folk recipe meant for choke cherries or wild berries -and just had to add yeast to get it fermenting: I part rose petals (berries in original recipe, 1 part surgar and one part water. Place in crock or glass container, loosely coverd and let ferment for up to six weeks, stirring regularly. Strain thorugh cheese cloth (strain numerous times for clearer wine with less sediment), and bottle.

    I will be sure to harvest enough roses to try some rose honey too!

  16. angela1313 says:

    I love flavored honeys and I will have to add some old roses to the yard to make this. It looks so beautiful. What a lovely gift it would make for Valentine’s or Mother’s Day. I’ll bet my Dad wouldn’t turn it down on Father’s Day either.

  17. Jean says:

    We infused honey with wild honeysuckle the same way and it was heavenly, can’t wait to try it with rose petals.

  18. Alise says:

    I love going out to collect wild rose petals! I just collected some yesterday to infuse in olive oil to make my favorite facial oil. I shall have to try to get back to the trail and collect more so I can try the honey. I wish the season were longer!

  19. Helene Amber says:

    For Alyse
    It is better to use a lighter oil, like almond oil to infuse flower petals

  20. giota says:

    hello,thank you for your wonderfull recipe!I want to give you another recipe with rosa centifolia,We make here in Greece every May.Because rosa centifolia have flowers only on May.We take the roses and we keep them with left hand and we cut the white part of the rose because it is bitter.For 100gr of roses we need 250gr of sugar.Put the roses with sugar in a jar and scrub them together until they become puree,(about 10 minutes).Then in a jar put 2 glasses of water and the puree of roses and set it on fire.You stir it alaways first in strong fire and then in lower fire.When it becomes jelly you put a cup of lemon juice as preservative.Close the fire and put the jam in a glass jar.I t is wonderful with fantastic aroma and you can eat it with ice cream,yogurt or with bread as jam!Her you can see:http://spitikesgeyseis.blogspot.gr/search/label/%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B1%CF%86%CF%85%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%BF

  21. Bishwa Basnet says:

    Wild roses are not available at my place. Is it okay to use scented Hybrid Teas and Floribundas?

  22. Wild Faerie says:

    Thank you for the recipe! Shared on fb! Am blessed with an abundance of wild roses just up the creek!

  23. Pat in CA says:

    I really enjoyed the Wild Rose Honey article. Recently, I looked all over for a Damask or wild rose variety to plant in my yard so I can make rosewater occasionally, but could not find a source or nursery that offered a plant not exposed to chemicals and pesticides. Can you direct me to a source? The kind shown in your article is wonderful. I am sorry that here on the central coast of California we don’t have wild rose bushes. Thanks so much for your great herb articles!

  24. Lori says:

    It would be a real benefit to the rose plant and the bees and bugs that live off it if you left at least one petal on each flower that you harvest your petals from. That way the rose will still get pollinated and make rose hips for your next harvest.

  25. Rachel says:

    You’ve inspired me yet again Rosalee!! Thank you for sharing with us. I’m wondering if you leave the petals in the honey indefinitely, or if you strain them out? I’m thinking this could make an amazing winter holiday gift, but worry about leaving the petals in. What is your recommendation?

  26. corrie says:

    These roses really are special…I make a jelly with them. It tastes exactly how they smell, very decadent, very delicious.

  27. Kali says:

    Hi! I made this today! Thank you!

    I am wondering…is it normal for them all to float up to the top? Do I need to keep stirring? It seems even when I try to stir they all stay up top.

  28. Debi Pister says:

    A few years ago, I bought some lavender honey. Incredible. SO, while the wild roses are finished in our area of south central BC, my lavender is just about to flower. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?! Love your recipes, Rosalee! Keep ’em coming!

  29. rebecca says:

    I grow all of my roses that i use for oils i don’t use pesticides in my yard at all. i am going to try this thats for the info and idea..

  30. Mercy says:

    I have knockout roses can I use them ? I bought them two years ago I don’t what they used before I bought them but I don’t put anything on my roses. Do you think it is safe to use them

  31. Chandice says:

    Wow this recipe sounds wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. I live on the oregon coast and know of some wild roses that are very fragrant! I’ve also have read about making rose jelly/jam :-D

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