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Other Names: Ätirgül (Kazakh); bulgarska, róża otto, or Turecka róża (Polish); bussora rose (British); gol Mohammadi or golesorkh (Farsi); gulab (Hindi); roos (Dutch); ros (Swedish); rosa (Italian, Spanish); rosa-chá (Portuguese); royz (Yiddish); roza (Bulgarian); vardi (Georgian); vered (Hebrew); waridi (Swahili); gülburnu, şam gülü, yabanî gül, or yaği gülü (Turkish). Rosa canina: Briar rose; dog rose; gülelmasil (Turkish); ruža šípová (Slovak). Rosa gallica: Apothecary rose; French rose; rose de Provence. Rosa rugosa: Hamanasu (Japanese); mei gui (Chinese); rugose rose; tomato rose. Damask rose: Damascenerros (Swedish); Damasceńska róża (Polish); damasuku-rozu (Japanese); măcieş damascene (Romanian); rose de Damas (French); roza damasskaya (Russian); triantafyllo damaskinato (Greek).

General Description: The rose (Rosa) family, while mostly thought of as decorative, is used extensively in the Arab world, central Asia, Iran, and India as an aromatic seasoning for food, especially sweets. The large family of fragrant roses originated in the region that stretches from western Europe to east Asia, with central Asia a center of this plant’s diversity. Most European rose varieties stem from R. gallica_, which grows wild in the Caucasus Mountains. The damask rose (_R. damascene) is the most important source of rose oil (also known as rose otto or attar). In France and North Africa, rose oil is obtained from R. centifolia_. In China, the native rose (_R. rugosa) has long been used for producing rose-flavored black tea.

Indian rose essence is extracted from small, deep red roses grown specifically for their inimitable fragrance, which is then diluted to make rose water. Northern India is known for its delicious milk-based sweets, many of which hint of rose. Rose preserves made with petals in heavy sugar syrup are sold in Indian markets, and rose hips jam, packed with vitamin C, is popular in central Europe. In France, red rose petals from Provence are candied and used to decorate cakes and other sweets.

Rose syrup is diluted to make a cool, refreshing drink in the Middle East. Turks dissolve rose-scented locoum (Turkish delight candy) into coffee, and in Iran, honey and jams are scented with rose petals. Rose ice cream is enjoyed in many Middle Eastern countries and even tobacco is scented with rose in Turkey.

Season: Roses bloom in summer and are best used in the kitchen in bud form or when newly opened. Rose water, rose syrup, candied roses, and dried rose buds are available all year.

Purchase and Avoid: To avoid toxic pesticides, make sure fresh roses are organic. Look for rose water and rose syrup in Middle Eastern groceries. Look for decorative candied rose petals in markets carrying French gourmet foods.

Note: Use rose water in small amounts to keep your food from tasting like perfume.


  • To dry rose petals, collect the roses when the blossoms are fully open. Gather them into a bunch and hang them upside down to air-dry in a dry, dark place. Or, remove the petals and spread them out on a screen, cookie sheet, or any flat surface to dry.
  • When using whole rosebuds, separate the petals from the calyx before using the petals only.

Serving Suggestions: Substitute rose water for vanilla when making pound cake, sponge cake, or shortbread cookies. Use candied rose petals to decorate a cake iced with dark chocolate frosting. Add a splash of rose water to apple pie filling, custard sauce, or honey cake.

Food Affinities: Almond, cardamom, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, cream, lemon, pine nut, pistachio, rice, sugar, tea, vanilla, walnut, yogurt.

from Quirk Books: