Ecuador wants you to smell the roses, and eat them

Mon Sep 13, 2010 7:01pm EDT
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By Hugh Bronstein

PUJILI, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador has long been a major exporter of big bulbed, colorful flowers that please the eye and the nose. Now its farmers are exploring a new idea -- roses that you can eat.

Restaurants from New York to Barcelona, looking to attract customers with novelty dishes, have started to serve food containing organic rose petals grown on farms like Roberto Nevado's in Ecuador's central highlands.

Nevado is a spritely septuagenarian who moved here from his native Spain to start a plantation in the perfect rose-growing conditions offered by this part of the country, and his Nevado Ecuador farm now has three million bushes under cultivation.

Only 100,000 of them are grown without pesticides and meant for eating.

"But we believe the market will grow," he said over lunch at his plantation featuring starters, main dishes and desserts containing red, pink and white rose petals that left a bitter-sweet sensation on the palate

"It's new, it's interesting, and that's what everyone wants," Nevado said, his green eyes flashing as he rolled a dollop of passion fruit mousse over his tongue, crushed rose petals adding a tangy juxtaposition to the sweetness.

A mechanical engineer by training, the energetic Nevado works standing up in his office, even while at his computer or talking on the phone. He started growing organic roses four years ago as part of the "going green" trend in business.

"They are the same species as non-edible roses, but the fertilizers have to be organic and no chemicals can be sprayed on them, which means they need more human care," Nevado said.   Continued...

<p>Roberto Nevado looks at a deep chocolate rose at his flower plantation in Pujili, south of Quito August 27, 2010. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja</p>