Exploring Our Love Affair with Rose
The history and uses of the swoon-worthy, versatile flower.
At Bodha, we love the mysterious, exotic flavour that rose lends to our drinks. In fact, our rose and cardamom lightly sparkling soft drink was the first flavour we perfected and launched.
But where did the rose come from? And how can you best use its’ enchanting floral taste in cooking?
A Rosy Story
The Greek writer Achilles Tatius called the rose the “queen of flowers” in the second century AD, but how old is the rose really?
According to fossil evidence, it dates back 35 million years. Some 5000 years ago, people in China began cultivating roses in gardens; people became enamoured with the rose and its’ blushing petals.
As the popularity of the rose continued to spread in the Near East along with the Persian idea of the paradise garden, it made its way to Europe via the Romans. The plants were imported from the East, brought in by savvy merchants.
The Many Uses of The Rose
In her famous book, Le Langage des Fleurs, Charlotte de la Tour says of the rose, “nature has exhausted herself in trying to lavish on it the freshness of beauty, of form, perfume, brilliancy, and grace.”
The Romans didn’t leave the loveliness of rose to be wasted in gardens alone — they crafted rose perfume and rose water to use as scents, in food and wine and for bathing. On special occasions, they used rose petals as lavish carpets.
In modern Western culture, the sweet musk scent of rose is still very popular in beauty and wellbeing products, and you might find rose used occasionally in desserts or sweet dishes as an ingredient or decoration.
In other cuisines, the heady flavour of rose is adored, as it should be.
Using Rose in Cooking
As you’ve likely noticed, many Middle Eastern confectionery and desserts incorporate the flavour of rose using rose water. Turkish delight is a prime example, which when made traditionally, is a cheerful way to end a meal.
Rosewater syrup is also poured over Middle Eastern desserts — including Baklava, Kataifi, Kanafeh, Awwamaat & Macaroons — and the flavour pairs beautifully with other rich, sweet flavours like cardamom, saffron and honey.
In India, rose water is a key ingredient in Kashmiri Biryani and Kulfi and can be used in sweetened rice dishes.
Desserts aren’t the only dish to benefit from a little rose oomph though; the flower makes savoury dishes shine. Rose can be added to the spice mix ras el hanout, along with cinnamon, clove, cumin, turmeric, pepper, coriander, and an array of other spices. The fragrant seasoning is then used in chicken or lamb tagines or as a meat rub for traditional dishes like grilled quail.
Which Type of Rose Should I Use?
As a rule, the more fragrant the rose, the more flavour it will add to your dish — so follow your nose!
Just about any variety of rose can be used for cooking. Just make sure they’re classed as edible, meaning they’re free of harmful chemicals and pesticides. Pink or yellow rose varieties and some white roses are wonderful in the kitchen. Save the red kind for Valentine’s Day gifting though, as they tend to have little flavour.
At Bodha, we love using the Damask rose. The Damask is an incredibly fragrant variety that has been used for centuries to make rose water and rose-scented oils. We wanted only the best and most fragrant rose for our Eastern-inspired beverages.
Treat your tastebuds to a little rosiness, try our aromatic rose and cardamom lightly sparkling premium soft drink.