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Rose Petals

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O, my love’s like a red, red rose – Robert Burns A Red, Red Rose

I guess I just can’t let go of Valentine’s Day. So I thought we would stay in the spirit of love and romance by talking about the rose. The ancient Greeks and Romans identified the rose with their goddesses of love referred to as Aphrodite and Venus. Roses are ancient symbols of love and beauty. The rose was sacred to a number of goddesses (including Isis and Aphrodite), and is often used as a symbol of the Virgin Mary. Roses are so important that the word means pink or red in a variety of languages (such as the Romance languages, Greek, and Polish).

In Ancient Rome a wild rose would be placed on the door of a room where secret or confidential matters were discussed. The phrase sub rosa, or “under the rose”, means to keep a secret — derived from this ancient Roman practice.

Grown for thousands of years, roses were cultivated as much for their culinary and medicinal uses as for their beauty and fragrance. I could go on and on about roses, as growing them is one of my favorite hobbies, but I won’t. Rose hips are eaten because of their high vitamin C content. Rose hips are used for making vinegar, syrups, preserves, herbal tea, and wines. Flower petals are added to salads and desserts, crystallized, made into jellies, jams, and conserves. Distilled rose water is used to flavor confectionery and desserts, especially in Middle Eastern dishes. This would indicate that they are mainly used in sweets, but rose petals are also found in the savory Moroccan spice mix, ras el hanout, and in North African sausages.

Culinary rose essence can be found in Asian or Indian grocery and spice stores. In China, native rose species (e.g., R. rugosa) have long been used as a source for floral scents in perfumery and for producing rose-flavored black tea.

For centuries, the divine fragrance of rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose water by the simple process of steam distillation of fresh rose petals with water. It is an ancient method that can be traced back to biblical times in the Middle East, and later to the Indian sub-continent. Rose oil and rose concrete are produced in larger quantities than rose water. The world production of these was estimated to be fifteen to twenty ton in 1986 (the most recent figures I can find), with Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, France, and Italy being the largest producers.


Kheer (Rice Pudding) from Philomena Saldanha Ashdown
Spinach Salad w/ Walnuts & Feta w/ Rose Petals
Sharbat Gulab from Philomena Saldanha Ashdown
Soji Halwa (Cream of Wheat Bars from Philomena Saldanha Ashdown)