Actually, petals, to make some kind of rose petal wine. And mead, ideally. Like dandelions, it's a labor-intensive ingredient, not least because what I have in ABUNDANCE is the US Soil Conservation Services's little Bad Seed, rosa multiflora. It's pretty and heavily-scented, but invasive as all hell and the roots break steel plows. And the flowers, though many, many, many, are small, about an inch across. Five little white petals.
I have a considerable amount of floribunda roses (though nothing compared to my holdings in Oriental Bittersweet) and so I went halfway down my driveway today, with a plastic bag and three protective cats.
I took the precaution of putting White Mountain Blackfly Repellent on my neck with a paper towel. It worked fairly well, and my hands didn't stink of citronella/peppermint/whatever. I figured this was important, since I don't want to brew White Mountain Insect Repellent Wine (would it work if taken internally? Could I get it to come out of my armpits?).
I had some pruners, too, but it became obvious that the easiest thing to do was not to pick or snip the flowers, but just to pull the petals. Even though it's a pernicious weed, I felt bad pulling off two or three buds as well as a potential rosehip with every flower. Various things eat the rosehips (thus spreading the pernicious weed, but they're hungry) and I don't like unnecessary cruelty. It also occurred to me that removing the non-petal bits of the flowers was going to take just as long as it does with the dandelions, and pulling the petals off while leaving the stamens and pistil and sepals on the bush was not all that difficult.
In the meantime, two catbirds hurled invective upon Marten and Willow. I saw the upper half of a hummingbird territorial display and heard lots of bird-cursing from two or three of them, too. Crows chased a pair of red-tailed hawks overhead. The bird with the very long melodious song (a whole bunch of phrases. Probably a warbler, it's been here invisible for three summers now and I still don't know what it is) sang, and the ovenbird and the yellow warbler, and it could hardly have been more pastoral. I picked for over an hour until I was tired of picking and hungry. The cats and I went back UP the hill.
I picked out the last calyxes (calices?) and I measured them and came out with a scant quart of petals. I need two quarts for each gallon of wine or mead, so less than a quarter of the quantity I would like. I shall have to be diligent tomorrow. They didn't seem to smell like much, despite the WHOMP of rose-fug around the bushes. Since I had less than a recipe's worth of rose petals, I couldn't make the brew up. I stirred a cup of sugar that I'll need for the recipe anyway into them. An hour later I had the best perfumed sugar ever. I am psyched. More petals tomorrow.