All About Roses

In early June, our first big harvest of the year begins - roses. We have 100 rose bushes on our farm, most of which are Damask roses as well as a number of Gallica roses.

damask rose harvest

Slowly and methodically, we move from bush to bush harvesting the petals by hand - it's hard to rush when you're busy avoiding bees and sharp thorns! We either take the petals into our drying room where they are dried for tea or we transport them in baskets to our still.

drying damask rose petals

Through steam distillation we extract incredibly sweet-smelling rose hydrosol (or floral water). The hydrosol efficiently cleanses the skin, removing oil and dirt from clogged pores, and is rich in anti-inflammatory properties which minimize redness and irritation. Rosewater is also delicious in cooking, and makes a delightful summer cocktail!

rose water cocktail

A little bit of history

One of the roses grown on our farm is the Apothecary’s Rose, a species that has been successfully traced back to 7th century Persia where today the rose is still widely embraced for both its healing and culinary properties.

During the time of the Crusades, two tales emerged that outline the rose’s travel out of the warring Persian lands and into Europe: one known as the Tudor Rose, the other as the Rose of Provins.

The Tudor Rose

It is said that English knights returned from the Crusades with the rose as a gift for their king, Henry II.

By the 15th century, the Apothecary’s Rose had become a symbol of the House of Lancaster, while their rival House of York was symbolized by the white Rosa Alba.

The civil war that broke out between the two Houses was cleverly named the War of Roses, and once the fight for power was won, Henry VII created a new emblem of England that still exists today by laying the Rosa Alba upon the Apothecary’s Rose to form the Tudor Rose.

tudor rose      rose of provins
The Rose of Provins

It is also said that, following the Crusades, the flower was brought to the French Castle of Provins by Thibault IV, the Count of Champage. The town became the European capital of the Apothecary’s Rose, which was subsequently renamed the Rose of Provins.

While these tales may be rooted in oral history, the rose's prevalence in so many historical documents speaks to how valued it was - and still is today. We have learned so much about roses and rose hydrosol over the years, and continue to be amazed by its useful versatility for the body and the soul, and of course - the kitchen!

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