Top chefs put rose petals on the menu

Hugh Bronstein,Ecuador
Sunday 19 September 2010 00:00 BST

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. Unless, of course, it is one you can eat. And that, at some of the world's fanciest restaurants, is precisely the kind of rose that is on offer.

Upscale eateries from New York to Barcelona, looking to attract well-heeled but jaded customers with novelty dishes, have started to serve food containing organic rose petals. Restaurants such as Per Se in New York, Zazu in Quito, Ecuador, and El Bulli near Barcelona are experimenting with rose petal dishes and desserts such as "Rose Souffle".

"The waiters sometimes have to explain that we did not just pull these roses out of the flower vase, that they are grown especially for eating," said Zazu's assistant chef Daniel Pillon, a Brazilian with a reassuring smile. The restaurant's rose martini, made with petals soaked for a week in vodka, is fast becoming a favourite.

The roses are not just any old hybrid tea or rambler. They are ones grown organically on farms like Roberto Nevado's in Ecuador's central highlands, which has three million bushes under cultivation. Around 100,000 of them are grown for eating with no pesticides but using garlic to ward off bugs.

Edible roses offer benefits such as calcium and vitamin C. Mr Nevado says one challenge is to convince potential buyers that they are safe. "It's basically lettuce in rose form," he says.

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