......................................"Life in shades of perfection....."
In the beginning The Rose bloomed unseen and unsung...... eons before any appreciative eyes existed. A simple bloom making a simple fruit - its roots went deep and the seed in its hips slowly spread. After the unhurried passage of vast spans of time, Rosa came to be nestled securely in the primeval Cradles of Civilization....... ready to be noticed at last.
Roses, 1978 - Jack Harkness (1918-1994)
Undoubtedly, it was the gathering females of the emerging tribes of mankind who winnowed their environment for edible, useful, and beautiful plants. It is not difficult to imagine how they would be drawn to the brightly colored and highly nutritious "hip" which followed the lovely fragile flower of wild roses. With immense patience our foremothers began the process of domesticating all their wild foundlings - thus giving birth to agriculture: a vital matrix of knowledge - and the key which gave entry into a well-fed and richly complex existence. This endeavor allowed Man the settled leisure to hone his tools, smelt his ores, learn his crafts, create his art, rule his world. And in the best of all possible worlds ..... to cultivate The Garden with her.
Enheduanna - circa 2300 BCE - Daughter of Sargon the Great of Babylon,
As recorded experience begins to sing of dawning human awareness - a Rose appears. At the opening of the mind's eye, its petals unfold. Always given unique status as a divine gift, roses are deemed a fit offering to the intangible realm..... Everywhere in this archaic world, the flower is consecrated to the Goddesses who embody Mother Nature in all her awesome manifestations. The Mesopotamian peoples who founded conscious civilization - Sumer and Babylon, Nineveh and Tyre and Ur of the Chaldees - held roses in devout reverence. Mythic figures from the Homeric epics understood the charm of its enchanting scent - and called the Dawn Rosy-fingered. The star-gazing Zoroastrian Magi dedicated this bloom to their wondrous light-bearing Archangels. Wherever it was known, the Rose was laid on ancient altars in honor of everything believed holy......
The rose garlands, resins, and scent-saturated animal fats used in early religious rites gradually developed into more elaborate offerings, and an increasingly high degree of skilled preparation was required. Eventually the sophisticated knowledge gained in temples was transmitted to the secular sphere. There the perfumed oils and lustral waters took on a worldly dimension - as personal pleasure and lure, as domestic item and trade commodity. Whatever the context.... the fragrance of the rose was understood to have an intrinsic effect on the human body - and on the spirit.
On the walls of the palace of Knossos on the isle of Crete - lost pinnacle
Alabaster and obsidian with gold ointment jars
The "Land of Roses" south of the Caspian Sea enters history as Persia, and probably as early as 1800 BCE was familiar with Rosa gallica; and likely with Rosa phoenicea, Rosa sancta, and Rosa damascena as well. It knew secrets of preserving the rose's unsurpassed fragrance - by macerating petals in vats of oil in the sun, or steeping the blooms in heated fats. Such perfumed unguents were exported throughout the Near East. Seafaring Phoenicians carried their valuable cargoes, and the rose plants themselves, in merchant ships that traveled to all the lands of the Mediterranean Basin.
These highly scented ointments had remarkable longevity: when an Egyptian tomb of the period of Thutmoses III (reigned 1479-1425 BCE) was opened, pomade flasks had kept their lingering sweet odor for 3500 years. A much later tomb of a Roman era cemetery (circa 170 CE) at Hawara in Lower Egypt was excavated in 1888 by Sir Flinders Petrie (1853-1942: this dark chamber yielded an entire preserved garland of rosebuds - identified by the Belgian botanist Crépin as Rosa sancta. After two milennia, these dried roses were the oldest to ever (at last, again) see the light of day....
Verdant Cyprus - birthplace of Aphrodite - was famous for both its roses and its rose-flavored syrups. During the early Bronze Age, an extensive oil and perfumery complex was established on this special isle, lush with countless olive trees and every fragrant herb. Recent archaeological work has discovered an amazing trove of artifacts dated at almost 4000 years old, showing the area's importance for the large-scale production of scented oils. Found in the rubble buried by an earthquake and torched by an oil-fueled firestorm.......were multiple-chambered distilling vessels: Primitive stills dating from twenty-five centuries before the complicated process was re-discovered in 9th century CE Arabia. Among the numerous finds were huge oil storage vessels, the first funnel in history (looking exactly like a modern one, only in terracotta) and numerous scent bottles - including a glass one embossed with a bunch of grapes and iridescent roses...
"Leave Crete, Aphrodite, and come to this sacred place
Here, cold springs sing softly amid the branches;
In the meadow, horses are cropping the wildflowers of spring,
In this place, Lady of Cyprus, pour the nectar that honors you,
The poetess - Sappho, 7th century BCE
Summer - W. E. Reynolds, 1862
The twice-blooming Rosa damascena 'Bifera' is thought to have been known as early as 1200 BCE. Possibly a natural hybrid of Rosa gallica and Rosa phoenicia - it possessed the superlative quality of Autumn re-bloom - and became a cult favorite throughout the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. The age-old festival of Rosalia which was held on the Aegean island of Samos took place twice a year - in May and again in September - which indicates that repeat-flowering Damask roses must have been in cultivation at a very early date. In his De Rerum Natura, the philosopher Lucretius recounts how during processions in honor of the Great Mother her worshippers were accustomed to strew the path of her image - showering a blizzard of rose blossoms on the goddess and her retinue.
"Cherished Venus, who beneath the gliding stars...
On the Nature of Things - Lucretius (96-55 BCE)
Greece wove the rose deeply into its myths and religious practice; Rome saturated every possible aspect of daily life with its scented petals. The literature of these two societies is full of references to the Rose, both poetic and practical. Pindar, Anacreon, and Ovid, Catullus, Horace, and Virgil praised it in their lyrics. Herodotus (484 - 425 BCE) records in his Histories that King Midas of Phrygia had roses in his garden with blossoms of 60 petals - surprisingly double for this early date. Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Galen in their early Materia Medicas made their obeisance to the flower that was both sublime and serviceable.
"It seems to me that the most widely known perfume is that of roses;
Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 CE)
The Roses of Heliogabalus
All the cultures of antiquity fully recognized the potent sensual and spiritual essence of the Rose.........which was embodied in its aphrodisiac and exhilarating perfume. Cosmic and Cosmetic: their shared linguistic root points to the fact that no dramatic division between body and soul was recognized by these vanished civilizations. The enhancement of appearance and the rituals of worship were both highly stylized - with no inherent contradiction being perceived between desire and devotion. Both visible and invisible were part of the same unfathomable spectrum. To inhale the Rose's fragrance has always been a seductive experience - and one that also offered a unique and mysterious solace. The subtle whisper of rose perfume seems to express ineffable perceptions.......
Dried roses are basic: the finest flowers being selected and carefully picked when the dew has just evaporated - then spread thinly in warm but airy surroundings in shade. Rose petals should be shorn of the white "claw" at their bases (which has the highest mosisture content) and be dried rapidly so essential oils are not allowed to disperse too much. Desiccated to brittleness, the petals could be crumbled to powder; if allowed to reach only a leathery dry stage they could be stored in bags and used to scent clothing and linen. The rose-red petals of Rosa gallica possess the noteworthy quality of retaining their fragrance exceptionally well during the drying process - and have been used thus over thousands of years.
Potpourri (the French word for "rotting pot") was in all likelihood an archaic method known to the people of the old Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds. Salt was one of the chief preservatives in ancient times - and rose petals layered with coarse sea salt would probably have been a common commodity. Made in covered crocks or wide-mouthed jars, the process produces a moist mass of petals soaked with the fragrant oil that the salt gradually draws forth. This rose oil can be strained off after the petals have steeped for a month or two, and appreciated in numerous ways......Or a fixative like Oriss root powder - from the dried and aged rhizomes of Iris florentina - can be layered in with the petals as an ideal further preservative. Though somewhat demanding of care and attention, such traditional treatment remains one of the finest ways to enjoy the perfume of roses throughout the year.
"No man can say, no man remember, how many uses there are for
Greek geographer Strabo (63 BCE - 24 CE)
The first reference to Rosewater is found in cuneiform writing on clay tablets from the royal tombs of Ur dated nearly 4000 years ago - and from that day to this it has remained one of the easiest and most pleasing ways to utilize the rose. The original uncomplicated form of Rosewater can be made merely by steeping deep pink or red fragrant rose petals in barely simmering water....both the color and the scent will rapidly be infused. Alternately, roses can be allowed to soak in water exposed to hot sunlight, with the petals being replenished over the course of several days.This elementary tincture of roses makes a wonderfully refreshing and healing facial soak - particularly if followed by Rose Seed Oil applied while the skin is still damp; the woody seeds (of Rosa eglanteria & Rosa rugosa) yield a very light and rejuvenating golden oil. If poured into a tub, Rosewater can create a relaxing and reviving perfumed bath - truly called by Voltaire (1694-1778)...... "the luxury of luxuries".
" To become young again, no ...... To become younger than I ever was, Yes!
At some point the easily produced Rosewater of the ancients was transformed into an especially potent steam-distillate of rose petals - small amounts of the petals' oil remain dissolved in the distilled water and give it a wonderful scent. True distillation of Rosewater may have originated in Persia long before historic times.... Indeed, strong evidence of the primitive grasp of this method on archaic Cyprus has now startlingly come to light. Yet the technique is first fully described and skillfully practiced in Arabia during the ninth century CE. The principle seems to have been totally unknown in Europe until its discovery by Moorish philosopher/physicians in 10th century Spain. Toward the end of the 1200's, knowledge of this alchemical process had finally spread north to France and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, North Africa, and Egypt.
" What is it your honour will command?
The Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
It was only a matter of time before the small droplets of pure rose oil floating on the surface of distilled Rosewater would be observed. Indeed, it is puzzling that this intensely fragrant oily film was supposedly first noticed only in 1574 at Ravenna, Italy by Geronimo Rossi. He is usually acknowledged as the inventor (at least in the West) of double-distillation, now known as cohobation. According to the alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1541) this complex process takes its name from the Arabic kohab - indicating "repetition" - a strong clue to its initial (and earlier) Middle Eastern origins. Whatever the exact chronology and location of the discovery - it is definitely recorded that by 1580 apothecary's lists in Germany include Oleum rosarum distillatum - that is, distilled Oil of Roses.....
Pavilion at the Shalimar Bagh ..... built by Jahangir for his 20th wife, Nur Jahan
But who might not prefer a more colorfully exotic and rather romantic version? Legend holds that the Moghul Empress Nur Mahal (titled both the Light of the Palace and Light of Jahangir) was the first to grasp the significance of the floating oil ......while languidly boating with her husband Jahangir on canals filled with rosewater one hot summer day in 1612. She then directed this superlatively perfumed film to be soaked up with cotton wool and pressed out into vials. And yet another charming story seems to give the honor of the marvelous inspiration to Emperor Jahangir's mother-in-law.....
"This ' Itr is a discovery which was made during my reign by the mother of
Memoirs of Emperor Jahangir, (1569-1627)
So - however it happened - the world was given the ultimate rose perfume: ATTAR.
Attar of Roses, Rose Otto, Itr-i-Jahangiri, Rose Essential Oil: All names for the most flawless natural aromatic in the world. Soon after its legendary discovery this precious perfume cost five times the price of gold - and even now in its purest state it is one of the most expensive of natural substances. There are between 300 and 400 different volatile components in Attar..... some of which have still not been fully analyzed. It is, after all, a living essence - varying in color from pale green to straw yellow to faintly rose pink - with its quality depending on the soil and climate that nurtured it and the skill with which it was manufactured. The very finest Attar is warm, rich, complex ......with notes of honey and spice, and a powerful tenacity. As Roy Genders remarked in his indispensable book Scented Flora of the World, 1976:
"In the oil of the rose are at least eight substances so exquisitely blended
Certain lands blessed with a beneficient climate and agreeable conditions became celebrated for the roses they grew and the rose products they brought forth: Persia, famed as an original home of the flower and for centuries a noted source, particularly the areas surrounding Isfahan and Shiraz. The tremendously ancient city of Damascus - which gave its name in antiquity to the classic perfume species Rosa damascena. The cool highlands of western Arabia. Northern India, especially around Amritsar - holy city of the Sikhs. The fabulous flowering Vale of Kashmir in the Himalayan foothills . And Morocco - the country once tellingly titled the Empire of Flowers - which developed an extremely important rose center south of the Atlas Mountains.
If life is hard - make your skin soft...... Aunt Habiba's wisdom
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
On the Italian peninsula, ancient Paestum (near present-day Naples) had been one focus of the Roman Empire's intensively cropped acerage - which was required to supply untold tonnage of blooms. By the Renaissance, Venice and Florence had become main sources of cultivated roses and the commodities thereof. Indeed, the latter city possessed wide knowledge about a dizzying repertoire of aromatic substances. This city's perfumers were considered real wizards....One of them, Rene the Florentine, accompanied a Medici princess when she became Queen of France in the mid-1500's - bringing many esoteric secrets to the French court. Italians had long been considered the most skilled artisans in numerous fashionable crafts. Foremost among these was the tanning of high quality leathers - which were often saturated with scented oils - especially when destined for perfumed gloves, a desirable accessory for arisrocrats everywhere on the Continent. Even in contemporary times, such fine craftsmanship applied to luxury goods remains a keystone of the Italian economy....
Before the early 1800's the well-known French Riviera, the shimmering Cote d'Azur, had been part of the Italian States for centuries - and privy to all its traditional arts. The balmy climate of the Mediterranean's northwestern coastline had encouraged the establishment of major perfumeries during the 1600's in the lush hills above Nice and Grasse. Situated at higher elevations overlooking the sea, these delightfully pleasant locales became vital commercial suppliers of a number of essential oils - with that of Rosa centifolia (Rose du Mai) holding a premier place. Both the lavish use of perfumes and the employment of the rose as a decorative motif reached a height of extravagance at the glorious apex of the French monarchy - before the bill came dramatically due .....
"On the eleventh of December, 1751, Lazare Duvaux ( personal shopper) sent her, at the Hermitage: Two Pots Pourris of India work decorated with ormolu..."
Madame. de Pompadour,1953 - Nancy Mitford (1904-1973)
The idyllic town of Grasse was a chief supplier of the myriad perfumed products that were central to the aristocratic French lifestyle, and it is still the focus of natural - as opposed to synthetic - production of essential oils. Here in the south of France.... the age-old technique of Enfleurage - originally used by the Egyptians - has been brought to perfection. Individual rose blooms are laid in rows on glass panes covered in a thick layer of fat, left to release their oil into it, and then carefully replaced by hand, repeatedly. A costly, labor- intensive process which does not rely on heat - enflurage will eventually result in Rose Concrete; when this substance has been rectified, the final Absolute of Roses is considered one of the most valuable types of rose essence.
At the opposite end of the Mediterranean, strategically located Anatolia - the land bridging West and East - had always been celebrated for its roses. The Red Rose of Miletus (Rosa gallica) was cultivated here from time immemorial, along with the Damasks. The rise of the Ottoman Empire - which spanned the 14th through 19th centuries - continued the traditional use of their fragrant varieties, and advancing Turkish hegemony carried these plants deep into Eastern Europe. Almost reaching the gates of Vienna before they were finally turned back at the Battle of St. Gotthard in 1664 - the Ottoman forces left behind the inestimable boon of Rosa damascena trigintipetala...... This thirty-petaled summer blooming Damask type is perfectly suited for the commercial production of top quality Attar of Roses.
During the ensuing 300 years, Bulgaria has moved into a position of unchallenged superiority in the growing and marketing of a superb double-distilled Attar of Roses. This fascinating industry is located in the Bulgarian Kazanlik Valley, an isolated micro-region found in the exact heart of the country. The "Valley of Roses" possesses ideal soil and climatic conditions in an unparalleled combination. Encompassing more than 7500 acres and reaching about 75 miles in length but only half a dozen in width, it is bounded on the north by the Balkan Range and to the south by the Sredna Gora Mts. In this sheltered landscape Nature brings together the beneficient weather, water, and soil needed for bountiful rose crops of supreme quality; the warm moist atmosphere during blossom time increases the number of buds in a typical 'Kazanlik' cluster - occasionally up to 10 flowers, each 3 inches across.
The handling of these blooms has been perfected through long experience. Beginning with primitive peasant retorts, which were initially used for distilling moonshine brandy, the industry progressed as the modern scientific methods introduced in 1902 took hold, and now displays an impressive degree of cooperative effort and exacting government control. Starting in May and continuing until mid-June, huge copper Stills swallow an entire countryside of bloom. The first distillation results in high quality rosewater and a low amount of Attar; careful re-distillation then results in an enriched concentrate that is decanted as purest quality Attar. Three tons of flowers (perhaps 100,000 blooms) yield around a kilogram of Attar - the total output of about 5 acres. Putting it into perspective for the home gardener - 150 lbs. of roses can give 1 oz. of oil....... Or 50 roses equals one drop of Attar. And these are very generous estimates.
The Perfume Maker.... by Rudolph Ernst (1854-1932)
Nevertheless, it gives great pleasure to have this remarkable plant close at hand, cloaked as it is in legend, history, and loveliness. While it is likely true that only in its special homeland does the perfume of this flower attain peerless excellence, we find the intoxicating warmth of its immensely complex scent to be one of the most satisfying floral aromas. Its superbly harmonious nature, its purity and rarity, are especially memorable.... bringing clearly to mind the endless fascination of the Rose.
Many traditional techniques of preserving the Rose's fragance can be adapted to the small-scale use of your own garden's bounty -
Roses can be placed in glass, ceramic or stainless steel vessels filled with water and left to steep in strong sunlight for several days. Cover with muslin or screen to keep clean. Filter and replenish with fresh petals repeatedly - this scented Tincture of Roses can also be made by simmering roses in water until deeply colored. Blooms may be soaked in sun-warmed oil outdoors or seethed in an oil slowly heated to 150 degrees F....When the roses have surrendered all their scent - filter the sodden petals out, and store this Rose-scented oil in airtight bottles in the refrigerator. The perfumed oil can, of course, be repeatedly filled with fresh petals to maximize the color and the depth of scent......
Theophrastus claimed that "Sesame oil receives rose perfume better than other oils...." But olive oil was also widely used for the purpose in ancient times, and today almond, apricot, and jojoba oils are good choices. Coconut oil can make a fragrant pomade, with a slight pink tint. An aged moist potpourri of roses and salt will have a fragrant oily liquid collect...strained out of the petal mass, it makes a primitive form of Rose Oil.
Experiment carefully and enjoy the possibilities of Roses -
Best Rose Classes (and selected varieties ) for the home production of
While yellow, apricot, and orange roses can be highly perfumed and
Gallicas - Rosa gallica 'Officinalis', Belle de Crécy, Belle Herminie, Cardinal Richelieu and Tuscany ( all excellent for massive volume and deep color)
Exceptionally Scented Hybrid Teas - Crimson Glory, Eden Rose, Fragrant Cloud, Grüss an Coburg, La France, Marchioness of Salisbury, Old Port and Velvet Fragrance
It goes without saying that under no circumstances should roses poisoned by
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The edibility of rose petals and hips gives the plant distinction far beyond its status as the most beautiful of ornamental flowering shrubs. Certainly the Rose was utilized in the cookery of the ancient world .... cooking is, after all, an alchemical process - one centered on the transformation of raw substance into a higher and more valued form. The magic of munching roses is charmingly spun in the tale of Lucius Apuleius: This Roman jester was bewitched for misbehavior - abruptly transmogrified into a Golden Ass - and he was only able to achieve human form once more by dining on a rose garland........ Eating roses is surely a civilizing gesture!
"Neither in winter nor in summer were roses
Midrash, 3rd Century CE
Ever since antiquity Roses have traditionally been grown in the company of edible plants and herbs. Ornamental gardening per se might be considered a somewhat late development in agriculture; often, the oldest domesticated flowers - for instance, the Saffron crocus - played a vital role in the domestic economies of early societies. The Beautiful was mostly synonymous with the Beneficial - the useful, medicinal, helpful ....and the Rose was all of that, and much, much more.
The Garden of Paradise .... from the Rhineland Master c. 1400
During the long dark centuries which separated the past splendour of the classical Western world from the re-birth of the Renaissance in Europe, necessarily walled gardens (the Hortus Conclusus) kept an essential botanical heritage going. Here the legacy of thousands of years of horticultural engagement and astute cultivation were shielded from the disintegration of social order across the far-flung Roman Empire. In the Eastern Empire, of course, Constantinople endured - its umbilical cord to ancient civilizations still uncut. In the fullness of time, Christianity transferred Rosa's archaic connection with a divine female force onto the Virgin Mother.... and the ever-amenable Rose resumed its eternal status as Mother Nature's loveliest espression of trancendence.
As Western civilization began to rouse itself to renewed heights of artistic and cultural life, a number of writers compiled what remained of antiquity's plant knowledge - added on the experience of the cloisters and the castle garden plots - then published impressive new Herbals, the first European works of "science" to be written in a thousand years. Naturally, Rosa was featured very prominently in each of these volumes, and numerous rose types are easily recognized today from the woodcut engravings which illustrate these monuments in early book-printing:
John Gerard (1545-1612 ) gave pride of place to this flower in his Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597. In his ground-breaking work, a dozen pages are lavished on the various uses to which it can be put - the single largest plant section in the volume - with fourteen roses described. Likewise , Delights for the Ladies, published in London 1608 by Sir Hugh Plat (1552-1611) makes its nod to the rose's central role in domestic management by detailing 16 recipes for preserving the bounty of the rose garden. Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris - brought out in 1629 by John Parkinson (1567-1650) - enumerated two dozen roses commonly grown at the time. Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) produced his Complete Herbal in 1653 - which is still being re-printed....
All in all, a huge burst of plant information for the Olde English-speaking world to absorb. These books - with their detailed Prescriptions aka Recipes - were meant to be consulted in the (Dis) Still Room, which was the center of operations for any provident mistress of a well-ordered household of the time. Amid a fair amount of material which now strikes us as silly, inaccurate, or useless - these arcane texts preserve a glimpse into a world where Woman was solely responsible for the well-being of everyone..... and the ease they enjoyed or the dis-ease they endured. Any time-tested advice must have been welcome - and the Rose was ever held to be a truly nourishing and wholly stabilizing plant spirit.
The chief culinary use of rose Blooms has always been Conserve of Roses, a jam of preserved petals luscious in color and delicious in taste. While fragrant red rose petals (an essential) have a fairly astringent and acidic flavor, lots of honey - or sugar - gives this confection a sweet spin. It was once recommended for a large number of medicinal applications, but it is really best savored in good health.This slightly liquid Conserve gained great popularity in 13th century France- when the city of Provins, 60 miles SE of Paris in the region of Brie, became famous for making it.
"Papa. all the apothecaries of Provins have come to be to beg me to ask you,
The four year old future Louis XIII -
One rose was central to the manufactury of the confection: Rosa gallica, in a form of the species with additional size and extra petals that had been cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean for milennia. The religious and cultural clash called The Crusades brought Western man into direct contact with the Near East. Those who were fortunate enough to somehow make their way back home often carried with them marvels from the lands they had tried to conquer - the Red Rose of Miletus not least among them. Count Thibaud de Champagne (1201-1253) - the King of Navarre, called The Chansonnier for his Troubadour lyrics - is believed to have contrived in 1240 to bring living plants of this rose back to his own French countryside.
Once there, the flower gained a new nickname, Rose de Provins - for the town southeast of Paris which made it a household word.... Botanically it was awarded the specific epithet 'Officinalis': a designation given to plants that were "Official" to the Apothecaries - the professional purveyors who were beginning to control the preparation of recognized herbal nostrums; in addition, it became commonly known as The Apothecary Rose.... Confits de Roses de Provins came to be considered a very healthful preserve that also happened to look & taste fabulous: As Gerard wrote:
The rose petals were picked early - when the dew of dawn had begun to dry - and at the moment blooms were just reaching the point of fully open. Once the bitter white "claws" at the base of the petals were trimmed off...... the petals were rinsed thoroughly and checked for floating insect life. Placed in a non-reactive vessel and covered with fresh water, blooms were stewed until their color infused the water. The addition of a great amount of sweetening, whether honey or sugar - and the simmering & skimming & stirring of the mixture with a wooden spoon until thick - resulted in a delightfully tinted and tasty preserve of roses petals. Modern versions of this conserve can be found in such books as Rose Recipes from Olden Times by Eleanor Sinclair Rohde (1883-1950) and the 2 vol. encyclopedic A Modern Herbal by Maude Grieve (1858-1941). Both works are excellent sources for how to use (ORGANIC) Roses in your kitchen.
Perhaps one of the simplest things to do with petals is make a cup of Tea - mixed with a favorite Green or Oolong type.... also along with a mint or lemon balm or chamomile tisane. A Rose Vinegar can be created by steeping a good quality cider or white wine vinegar with deep red petals until some of the color and fragrance has been infused. Rosewater or homemade Tincture of Roses can be used to dilute the strong acidity of pomegranate or cranberry juices if desired... For all of these uses, most of the varieties recommended above for Potpourri etc. are appropriate - the classic types of Gallicas and Damasks are the traditional favorites, and the repeat-blooming Portlands and Rugosas are exceptional, providing masses of scented blooms throughout the season.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Virtually any of the things which can be done with Rose Petals can additionally be created using the spectacular fruit of the Rose: the bright reddish Rose Hip - an embryonic apple filled with woody white seeds. While not strictly speaking a Fruit, the ripe Hips can be thick-walled and fleshy, edible and tasty items ( if rather acidic eaten raw). Hip-bearing roses make lavishly beautiful scenes in Autumn; additionally, they provide wonderful wildlife shelter & food - attracting birds in great variety to the garden. Certain old Rose types - particularly the sensational Species and the superlative Rugosas - are remarkably worthwhile for human culinary purposes.
Rose Hips are just about the richest source of Vitamin C in the plant kingdom - offering up to 50 times as much of that Vitamin as Oranges (which have approximately 50 mg. per 100 grams); they are exceptional for their bioflavonoids, carotenes, and phytosterols. Hips also contain high amounts of the Vitamins A, E & K: plus the whole B complex: as well as iron, calcium and selenium. Truly - the Rose produces one of the most nutritious and useful of Fruits - on flowering shrubs of outstanding beauty and remarkable hardiness. These lovely tough shrubs really require very little in the way of special care; numerous old types will grow virtually anywhere - and they provide an extremely rich food source in small amounts of space. A family can be well-supplied with only a few bushes: Every garden should enjoy these truly essential plants......
A Summary of Roses that are outstanding for the size, color & savor of their Hips:
Rosa canina 'LAXA' - A peerless form of the native European Dog Brier which has the fantastic quality of near thornlessness .........because it was originally selected and introduced in 1890 by Otto Froebelli of Zurich for use as an understock. As such, it is extremely hardy, tough, disease-resistant and prone to spread by rootsuckers and seeds. The flowers are completely unnoticeable - palest pink and five-petaled - fleeting for a month or so in late Spring. But each one becames an inch long oval Hip of deep crimson: these have good flavor - and most importantly will last far into real winter without deteriorating at all on the bush. Very handy for spur-of-the-moment harvest. This rose should NOT to be confused with Rosa laxa (Retzius)....
Rosa laxa (Retzius) - This rather rare species from Turkestan was first described by the Swedish botanist Anders Johan Retzius (1742-1821). The true Rosa laxa came to us from a Canadian correspondent twenty years ago and we are extremely grateful to have been able to obtain it... This tough hardy shrub has greyish-green leaves and five-petaled white flowers - followed by curvaceous deep red Rose Hips. Research has shown that this Species offers one of the highest vitamin C levels of any Hip.
Rosa canina ............. 711 - 1338
Vitamin C content in milligrams per 100 grams of Rose Hips
Rosa pomifera (Rosa villosa) -The Apple Rose, widespread over Europe & Western Asia, is a species of great beauty and utility - with cool grey-green foliage & large single flowers of a clear pure pink in late Spring only. Extremely graceful and robustly healthy... this vigorous 7 foot shrub covers itself with very large round orange-red to crimson Hips. One of the best...
Rosa macrantha 'Daisy Hill' - a semi-double flowered form of the basic species, which itself is probably a hybrid of Rosa gallica and Rosa canina. Pink buds opening to flowers of creamy pink with a strong fragrance.The bush spreads wider than tall & can be used as a dense groundcover about 5 feet tall. Blooms only in early summer - but it produces a fine crop of Hips. Altogether appealing and tough as can be .....
Rosa eglanteria (Rosa rubignosa) - The Sweet Brier or Eglantine, native to Europe and naturalized in our area of NW California ... a huge plant in maturity - up to 10 feet tall and wide & heavily thorned - this will make an excellent impenetrable hedgerow. The Species itself has very fragrant rosy-pink blossoms and apple-scented foliage - the leaves will waft a delightful perfume of ripe apples far in moist air, or when bruised. A single bush will be covered with thousands of half-inch diameter Hips in Autumn. Our nursery is named after an 1894 Penzance Hybrid of the Species - 'Greenmantle'. This variety has the added attraction of flowers of a deep cherry-red with a white eye .....plus the same fragrant foliage, size, hardiness, toughness & thousands of Rose Hips.
Rosa acicularis 'Aurora' - A special selected form of the Arctic Rose (by Erskine of Alberta, Canada) with deep rose-purple five-petaled flowers, followed by bright red, mid-sized Hips. Exceptionally hardy (apparently to Zone 1!) and able to grow in very harsh conditions.......This has bloomed for for us over an extended period in summer.
Rosa alba 'Semi-plena'- A large shrub of extreme toughness and hardiness. Pale blue-green foliage and milk white semi-double flowers of great poise. Excellent for a tall hedge, blooming in early summer. The bright red oval Hips cover the plant in Fall - and are distinctively well-flavored and smooth. A lovely plant for its suave colors.
"The White Roses are supreme over all the other old races in vigour,
The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book, 1994
Rosa rugosa - This well known Species rose grows wild on the beaches of Japan - proving its worth in areas of sandy dry soils and difficult conditions. It is also a very hardy rose, even as far north as Zone 2. The basic Rosa rugosa rubra has leathery, ribbed, very disease-resistant leaves & large mauve pink five-petaled blooms. The most basic Rugosas all repeat bloom well....continuing to flower until frost while also ripening their Hips. Three varieties are best for large crops of good-size Rose Hips:
Scabrosa - The wild Rosa rugosa is represented in our collection by this variant: A form that was introduced by Jack Harkness around 1950, it is a magnificent shrub rose - larger in flowers, foliage and Hips than the Species. Blooms reach 5 inches - the Hips can be more than an inch across. Plants achieve 7 feet in height & make a great hedge.
Rosa fedtschenkoana - This amazing Species comes from Central Asia and is known for its rare ability to re-bloom.... its white blooms produce brilliant crimson hips as the bush continues to flower. With its young growth of lilac pink color and mature foliage of pale greyish-green, it has an altogether eye-catching color scheme. Though apparantly never tested for Vitamin C content, this rose is one of a trio of extremely similar Species from the region. An article in the 1985 Canadian Rose Society Yearbook claimed that the very closely allied species Rosa beggariana may contain over 5000 mg. of Vitamin C per gram. It is quite possible that Rosa fedtschenkoana's Hips are not only be beautiful - but also outstanding for vitamin content as well.....
Other excellent choices for Hip display and harvesting Rose Hip crops:
Rosa paestana - The original Portland Rose will ripen deep red round Hips.
Rosa rugosa 'Scabrosa' - Hips
A Handful of Technical Tips for Handling Rose Hips
1. Gather Rose Hips when fully colored, firm and ripe - before weather causes any softening. Clean in cool water, drain, & clip off sepal ends and twigs with scissors or garden shears. Process Hips as soon as possible to prevent off-flavors from developing.
2. Cleaned whole fresh Rose Hips can be made into Tea - or simmered in water for facial washes. Their high Vitamin C content can sometimes be helpful for healing and rejuvenating the skin - a mix of both Petals and Hips can be especially pleasant. Try small amounts of Hips initially.......they do contain Ascorbic Acid in large amounts and can sometimes be too acidic on delicate skin.
3. Drying - Rose Hips can be cut in half and scraped clean of woody seeds and bristles with a small spoon - then spread to dry in shade during warm weather. Once they are completely hard & dried - Hip halves can be put in glass jars and stored in a cool place
4. Rose Hips can be cleaned, allowed to dry off, placed in sterilized canning jars, & FROZEN. This method will preserve almost all of their vitamin C and other nutrients.
5. ALWAYS use glass, stainless steel, enamel or other non-reactive cooking vessels - and wooden spoons for stirring. Though the vitamin content is not affected too much by simmering temperatures.......always keep covered and avoid over-cooking.
6. To make Rose Hip JAMS or SYRUPS: Use whole Hips which have been trimmed up and then rinsed.......Cover hips with adequate water, bring to boil quickly , then just simmer until hips are soft enough to mash..... Put the cooked mass through a food mill or sieve a bit at a time. The juicy pulp should have the consistency of a creamy puree. Make sure all seeds have been strained out! Add honey to taste & a squeeze of lemon - More honey and water will produce a Syrup.... The Rose Hip Jam can be further cooked to thicken it.......IF you wish to keep either of these concoctions longer than a couple of days in the refrigerator - they must be processed by sterilizing and sealing in scalded canning jars ..... See The Joy of Cooking for precise details of fruit jamming - as well as such authentic Scandinavian treats as Rose Hip Soup to cheer winter days.
Making use of Roses is a pleasurable task.....
Enjoy the personal satisfaction of being able to turn Rose flowers and fruit into helpful goods. Though the process does require an investment of time and effort in both the kitchen and garden - it yields real rewards. It isn't just a quaint hobby - there's practical magic in it. Roses themselves can be so willing & prolific, even in a rough spot. Their nature is to take hold and immediately make everything more beautiful & bountiful...... to be remarkably generous in return for their space in the sun.
Rose growing on an old stone wall in the garden of Ninfa, Italy....
"The air inside the garden was not the same as the air
A History of Private Life: Passions of the Renaissance
A garden is a sanctuary for both plants and people, and while beauty is its bottom line - there is every reason in these times to understand how beautiful usefulness really is..... In the future - even a modest garden with a thoughtful selection of traditionally valuable plants will be a boon to the faithful gardener. Domestic life is immeasurably enriched by the enjoyment of even a tiny garden plot and its bounty. A garden does not have to be big to nurture a goodly number of edible and appealing plants - whether vegetables & fruit, or herbs & roses. By practicing intensive organic cultivation, it's possible to coax a great deal of nourishment & happiness out of a limited landscape.
Antique roses serenely satisfy both requirements - since they possess a delightful blend of peerless charm in the garden plus endearing utility in the home. Whether roses are experienced as celebration or sustenance - their quality is genuinely rewarding. They always improve the ambiance ..... whatever the aspect of their surroundings may be.
A small planting of well-chosen varieties will offer lots of blossoms for decorating the home and perfuming the boudoir and bath - a fully established rose should be able to produce several hundred flowers during its season. Roses which are intended for harvest of flowers or hips may be grown in a special grouping of their own, where high productivity can be encouraged with special attetion. The Species Roses, Sweet Briers and Rugosas can be used to totally hedge a garden - or as a transition between groomed garden areas and native surroundings; such a hedge can provide screening, protection, scent, flowers, and a crop of potent hips. Intersperse with Rosemary or true Myrtles, underplant with Lavender and Thymes, edge with Dianthus or Violets - for an all-season array. If there is enough space - the old Gallicas or wilder types with a tendency to spread on their own roots can be allowed to naturalize. One mature specimen of a perpetual-blooming classic rose can become the aesthetic focus of a garden ....
Or simply BE the whole garden, all by its extraordinary self.
"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground....."
The Rosette Nebula
There is no other Genus of plants that answers the fullness of
Die Glasperlenspiel - Herman Hesse (1877-1962 )
All original text and images © Greenmantle Nursery 2005- 2021