However damp the days are here, they have also been sweet with the fragrance of wild roses. About three weeks ago, the buds began their ephemeral bloom, first slowly and shyly, before unfurling their petals all at once in a show of pink exuberance.
There are two varieties that I've seen growing right behind our house, at the edges of the woods and along trails all ever town: Woods' Rose (Rosa Woodsii) and the Nootka Rose (Rosa Nutkana). These flowers grow wild (and tall, up to four feet) around the Northwest, including along the Columbia River, in areas traversed by Lewis and Clark. In fact, these sweet, old-fashioned blooms, always demure and never too showy, are mentioned in the journals of their expedition.
Meriwether Lewis writes on June 10, 1806 that "there are two speceis of wild rose both quinquis petallis and of a damask red..." with quinquis petallis referring to the bloom being five-petaled rather than many-petaled like the cultivated roses we are more used to seeing.
The petals of the Woods' Roses are a much deeper pink than those of the Nootkas, which at times can be found in a blush hue so pale that it seems merely a variant shade of white. It seems to me that the flavors of the darker blooms are stronger in taste as well. I discovered this a few days ago when I was walking the dog, tasting the velvety petals as I came across them.
That's when I thought the roses might be perfect combined with rhubarb. They could add dimension to rhubarb's enthusiastically sour flavor, which I've always found to be one-note on its own. I think rhubarb does best in the company of friends, like a scrape of vanilla bean, a handful of strawberries or strands of citrus zest.
I decided to gather some petals and blooms before they were gone. I climbed onto a cherry log pushed up against our back fence and reached outward and upward toward a Woods' Rose shrub that was growing from the highest part of the drop where our retaining wall ends. Somehow I managed to pluck whole blooms and catch petals in my bucket without falling overboard! Success.
You'll want to make this galette as soon as possible to catch the end of the wild roses and rhubarb. Or, if the bounty where you live stretches into June, you can wait until the 10th to commemorate Lewis and Clark's first encounter with these beautiful roses in 1806.
Rhubarb and Wild Rose Galette
Tart, sweet and aromatic with each bite, you can adjust the rose flavor with the amount of petals you use. Just be sure not to overdo it! You can also make this with petals from cultivated, pesticide-free roses, though you'll have to play around with how much you use. For a gluten-free version, use this crust from Aran, and then substitute white rice flour in the filling.
Adapted from Alice Waters.
Makes 1 galette.
Dough for 1 pie or tart, such as the one here.
For the filling:
1 lb. rhubarb, all leaves and ends trimmed off
3/4 cup natural cane sugar, divided
generous pinch of kosher salt
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purposed flour, divided
1/4 cup almond meal
2 to 3 generous handfuls of wild rose petals (depending on how much rose flavor you want)
1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Wash and dry rhubarb. Cut stalks into pieces 1/4" thick and about 2" long. In a bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar and the salt. Set aside.
Roll crust out to 1/8 inch thickness to form a 14" circle. Transfer to prepared baking sheet to finish assembly of galette.
In a small bowl combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the almond meal. Spoon mixture onto the middle of your circle of dough then push out toward edges leaving a 1 1/2 inch border uncovered. Place pieces of rhubarb at the edge of the circle of dough and roll the dough over the rhubard and crimp, turning the pan as needed to form a rim which will prevent juices from flowing out of your galette during baking.
Toss rose petals over the almond meal mixture. Place the remaining pieces of rhubarb on top, in whatever pattern you like, covering everything up to the edges. Brush rim with melted butter then sprinkle with the Turbinado.
Place in middle rack in oven. Turn tray after 15 minutes of baking. After another 15 minutes turn again. Do this again a third time, for a total of 45 minutes of baking time.
Cool competely then sprinkle with more rose petals, if you like. Serve alone or with a dollop of whipped cream.