(15 minutes, serves 4)
This is an ancient recipe, based primarily on a recipe N. Maheswari Devi saved from 13th-14th c. manuscripts in the Jaffna Library. The library, which contained over 97,000 books and manuscripts and was one of the largest in Asia, was burned by an organized mob on June 1, 1981, during the Sri Lankan conflict, one of the great tragedies of that era. The burning was one of the most violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the 20th century.
Although the library has since been rebuilt, many irreplaceable manuscripts were lost to the world. I offer this recipe to you with gratitude to the author for her work researching and saving many such recipes, and recommend her book to you, Jaffna Heritage Cooking.
Roses bloom lushly in the hill country of Sri Lanka; if roses aren’t available, hibiscus (shoeflower) also works beautifully here, lending a little more tang. You can prepare this recipe either as a lightly-dressed salad, or as more of a yogurt-based raita, a cooling element with a spicy curry meal.
Petals are quite perishable, so this should be made and served fresh for a salad; a raita will keep for a few days in the fridge.
NOTE: It’s important to only eat flowers that haven’t been treated with pesticides or other poisons when cooking; if you’re not growing the flowers yourself, be sure to buy from reputable sources that certify they are food-grade quality.
1/2 t. salt
1. If using rosebuds, remove the petals from the base. If using fully-grown roses, tear or chop the petals small (otherwise, the large petals will have an unappetizing slick texture). Rinse and drain them well before continuing.
2. Combine petals with remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Serve cold.