Roses have been cultivated for medicinal, culinary and cosmetic uses for over two thousand years. Steam-distilling methods have been used to extract the essential rose oil throughout most of this time. The by-product of this technique is rose water, a versatile liquid that can be used in culinary, beauty, and even religious applications.
If someone special to you loves roses, give them a gift made with rose water. The sweet fragrance of roses permeates items made with rose water. Unlike cut flowers, rose water will not wilt in a few days.
Rose water has a myriad of uses, many of which date back two millenia. One of the earliest uses of roses was in perfume. Not only did people use rose essence to fragrance their hair and bodies, they also used it to perfume their homes and in sacred religious sites. Muslim and Hindu traditions call for the use of rose water in many ceremonies, such as weddings and even burials.
There is a long tradition of cooking with rose water in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. In the ancient world, rose gardens were considered to be equally as important as grain fields and orchards. For centuries the scented water has been added to both sweet and savory dishes to infuse it with a complex and distinct flavor. Rose water was a popular flavoring ingredient long before vanilla became widely available.
Examples of modern foods flavored with rose water include marzipan, baklava and rice pudding. It is also common to mix rose water with dairy drinks such as milk and yogurt lassi. In Muslim traditions, rose water is a frequent substitute for champagne as a celebratory beverage.
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Long ago it was discovered that rose water has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Thus, it has been added to skin care products to help reduce redness and irritation. It is said that Cleopatra washed her face in rose water and bathed in a mixture of rose petals and milk to keep her skin supple.
Rose essences are also popular in aromatherapy, as many people find the classic tea rose scent to be quite soothing. A topical spritz of rose water provides both moisturizing and calming properties when applied to the face. This is especially soothing in dry winter air.
If you would like to make your own rose water at home, this process is simple and the finished product makes a wonderful gift. Bulgarian and Damascus roses yield the best results. Petals should be remove from the stems and rinsed thoroughly. Place the petals in a pot, cover them with distilled water, and simmer with the lid on until the color has faded from the petals. Keep the pot covered while allowing the liquid to cool so no further evaporation occurs.
Rose water carries the pure fragrance of roses without added chemicals or alcohol. Whether in homemade baked goods or a calming beauty product, there are countless ways you can make rose water a thoughtful gift for the rose lover in your life.