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One of the member-only sessions at the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society of America's event is "How to Eat a Rose," led by Jim Long, author, gardening and herb magazine columnist, blogger and lecturer. He will discuss how roses -- the 2012 Herb of the Year -- can be used in sorbets, hors d'oeuvres, cakes and beverages. Long is the founder of Long Creek Herbs, Blue Eye, Mo. He has collected rose recipes from around the world and has created many new ones.

"If you travel to India, Pakistan or countries in that region, you will find roses in food as often as you do other herbs," he says. "While in India, I enjoyed rose cakes at weddings, rose ice cream and rose milkshakes in ice cream parlors, and rose jams wrapped in flatbreads. The rose is as common as chocolate, vanilla or strawberry in ice cream varieties."

Long says interest in herbs is increasing, and, according to The National Garden Bureau, there were 7 million new gardeners last year.

"Many of those grew vegetables for the first time, and found that a tomato is wonderful, but with fresh basil, it is awesome," he says. "What is exciting to me is the big growth in new gardeners, and in the interest in growing herbs, in the just-out-of-college and young marrieds. For a lot of people, it isn't enough to grow vegetables; they want flavor from seasoning herbs that make their meals exciting and flavorful."

A few of Jim Long's rose recipes:

Lemon Balm Rose Cream Cake

For the cake

  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped Lemon Balm leaves
  • 2 leaves Lemongrass (the leaf, not the bulb), snipped fine with scissors -- don't use a food processor in place of the scissors
  • 1 package Lemon Supreme cake mix
  • Eggs, according to cake mix directions
  • Water, according to cake mix directions
  • Oil, according to cake mix directions

For the filling:

  • 1 large package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon rose syrup (find at liquor stores or Asian markets) or 1 tablespoon dry strawberry gelatin powder
  • 1 small carton Cool Whip
  • Fresh strawberries, blueberries, rose petals or pansies

To prepare the cake: Combine the liquid ingredients called for on the box -- usually 11/3 cups water and 1/3 cup oil.

Put the liquid in a blender with the lemon balm leaves and lemongrass. Pulse-blend until the herbs are fairly well pulverized.

Add that to the dry cake mix and eggs, beating well, and pour into two oiled, floured round 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.

With a cake slicer, slice each cake in half, making 4 thin layers.

To prepare the filling: In food processor, pulse blend the ingredients, then stir the Cool Whip in by hand.

Fold together well and refrigerate for several hours.

Spread about 1/2-inch layer between the first and second layers of cake. Place the second cake on that, and cover the next layer with the filling.

Put a layer of fresh, edible rose petals over that, add the third layer, repeat with filling and roses, then place the fourth layer on top.

Cover it with filling and dot liberally with fresh strawberries or blueberries and fresh rose petals or pansies. Chill for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Rose and Raspberry Salad

This is an elegant, yet simple, salad to serve before a main course of salmon or other seafood, or as a simple, healthy lunch with your favorite crackers.

For the salad:

  • 6-8 cups torn spring lettuces
  • 1 cup fresh red raspberries
  • 1/2 cup freshly picked, fragrant rose petals
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or local pecans
  • Balsamic vinegar or rose salad vinegar, to taste

For the rose salad vinegar:

  • Edible rose petals
  • White wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

To prepare the salad: Arrange a helping of salad greens on each plate and top with the remaining ingredients. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar or rose vinegar over each and serve.

To prepare the rose salad vinegar: Gather enough fragrant rose petals to fill a quart jar, pushing down a bit to fit plenty of petals in the jar. Be sure to snip off the bottom white tip of each petal if it tastes slightly bitter.

Completely fill the jar with white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, making sure all of the petals are covered. Cover the container with plastic wrap and set on the kitchen counter. Give the container a little shake or stir once each day for 4 days. On the fifth day, strain out the petals and discard them.

To the liquid, add 1 level tablespoon of brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Store the vinegar in the refrigerator for as long as a month. Use the rose salad vinegar on any summer salad. It's also good on grilled seafood.

Makes 4 servings.


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