I can’t help myself. In the summer they’re everywhere I like to be: along the beach path from my parents’ summer rental in Cotuit, Massachusetts … surrounding my friend’s Nantucket “shack” … along the harbor walk from Charlestown to South Boston … hugging the length of the Province Lands bike path on the tip of the Outer Cape … and up in Camden, Maine, they separate Noma’s stony beach from her grassy backyard. I’m talking about Rosa rugosa–a.k.a. the wild rose, or the beach rose–the backdrop to summer at the seashore. I love gathering the delicately-scented, edible flowers–pale pink, fuchsia, and white–the way some folks collect seashells.
I can’t leave the house in summer without a plastic bag. The walk to the beach takes me twice as long, because I pluck as I go. (I don’t gather from private gardens or state beaches, and I avoid stripping bare the lovely barrier these low shrubs provide. I also like knowing the source of my petals, because I love to cook with them, and a pesticide-protected garden isn’t going to help my end game.) As soon as I have a full bag of Rosa rugosas I toss a few into the evening’s salad and freeze the rest. When I’ve accumulated enough, I get busy making preserves–a treat anytime, but smack in the middle of a winter snowstorm, as you spread this fragrant jam on your morning toast, you may just feel the hint of a warm summer breeze.
For information on processing preserves, go to: uga.edu/nchfp