The process of extracting oil from Damask rose petals was first practiced in Iran mainly for its perfume and then from rose petal oil came rose-water or golab. Both rose petal oil and rose-water are now used the world over for cooking, beauty preparations and for the relief of medical conditions .
Rose water or golab has a very distinctive smell and flavour is used extensively in Persian deserts, such as ‘shir berenge’ or rice pudding, in jams and ice creams such as bastani ba faloodeh ( my personal favourite) , pastries such as ‘ baamiah’ and ‘halva’ and in cookies such as ‘naan berenji ‘ the list is endless.
Rose water also has symbolic meanings within Iranian traditions and culture. It represents cleansing and as such is often placed on the ‘haft sein’ table at new year or Naw rooz ( a table containing 7 traditional items beginning with the letter S). The Rose water is for collection all sickness be it in mind, thought, deed, or in the physical body and/or it’s sprinkled into the air. Rose water is symbolistic within the Zoroastrian religion and in ancient Iran newly arrived guests are greeted with sweets made with rose-water and sprinkled with rose-water as they entered the house. Some Zoroastrians still keep a ‘golabaz’, a traditionally shaped vase with rose-water in it and greet their guests in the traditional ways. I also have memories of using rose-water to lightly cleanse and freshen up furniture and draperies before receiving guests and especially at Norooz. In Avestan, the language of the Persian prophet Zoroaster, “rose” is varəda.
Originally rose-water was used for cosmetic purposes, as a scent or dropped in bath water and as the cosmetics market expanded so did the demand for rose oil. Today it remains one of the leading base scents within the perfume industry and it’s used for many other beauty products including creams and astringents.
Spraying rose-water on the face is thought to be good for anxiety and to strengthen the immune system and bathing in it is said to relieve rheumatism and aching joints. Drinking rose petal tea is reported as helpful for those with renal problems, coughs,colds and general health complaints. Extensively used in aromatherapy where it has claimed the grand title of the ‘queen’ of the botanical world rose-water is used to alleviate general malaise, depression, eczema, frigidity, mature skin, menopause and stress
Dried Rose petals or Gol Mohamadi
Dried rose petals are used extensively across Persian cuisine for taste and decoration. You can buy this already prepared from an Iranian grocery store. Be sure to keep them in an air tight container in a cool dark cupboard or the colour will fade. Rose petals are used for sweet dishes mainly such as Ice cream, jams, sweet pastries and as a cordial. Ground they can used to decorate rice for example and it is an ingredient of advieh used in preparation of meat dishes.