The rose has been on the planet for longer than we have. It is believed to have grown in what is now Central Asia in the Eocene period, around 60 to 70 million years ago. An imprint of a rose found on stone in the Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado has been dated as being around 40 million years ole. Other rose fossils have been found in Oregon and Montana which are believed to be around 35 million years old. Such fossils have also been found in Germany and former Yugoslavia.
This data ties in with a Pakistani folk tale, which says that before there were people, fairies and djinns populated the Earth. When people arrived in the paradisiacal garden they had made the supernatural beings left, but left the rose behind as a reminder that they had once roamed the Earth. It is said that fairies and djinns are still attracted to the rose, while evil creatures, such as the snake, go to the Night Flowering Jasmine, or raat ki rani in Urdu, Queen of the night.
It is believed to have originated in northern Persia, and from there spread to Mesopotamia, then to Palestine, and from there to Asia Minor and Greece. The first written mention of the rose is in Sumerian cuneiform script, the text being from around 2860 BC. It was a sacred flower in ancient Egypt and offered to the goddess Isis. It has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In Greek mythology, the rose is said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis.
The damask rose (Rosa damascena) is believed to have made its appearance in 900 BC and this is the rose from which the best rose water is said to be made. In 50BC the Romans were delighted by the Rosa damascena semperflorens or the Autumn damask. This was a cross breed of Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata (musk rose). In Latin, rosa means red. Interestingly people have been unable to breed a black rose and Pakistani folklore explains this, quite simply. The rose is a symbol of love and beauty, while black is the colour of sorrow, evil and death, so there can never be a black rose as this would be contrary to the nature of the rose.
Of course in England the rose was associated with war, as in the Wars of the Roses, with the House of York‘s symbol being the white rose, and that of the House of Lancaster being the red rose. They are now combined on the English coat of arms.
In ancient Rome they put rose petals in wine and wore garlands of roses around their necks at banquets to prevent drunkenness. Brides and grooms wore crowns of roses as did depictions of Cupid, Bacchus and Venus. In 600 BC the Greek poetess Sappho calls them the Queen of the Flowers.
In England it was a custom to hang a rose over a dining table as a sign that whatever was said sub rosa (under the rose) was confidential and not to be repeated. Even now the ornate plaster ornament in the centre of a ceiling from which some light fittings hang, is called the rose.
The Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon I, planted roses at Malmaison and it was her ambition to stage a rose renaissance and have all known varieties in her garden, in the 1800s.Culpeper in his 17th century Herball said that distilled rose water, rose vinegar and rose oil extract was “good in hot fevers, jaundices and jointache”.
In Pakistan a few drops of rose water are good for tired or sore eyes, and rose water will also help soften the skin and get rid of skin problems.
On the subcontinent and throughout the Middle East as well as in Turkey, desserts are often flavoured with rose water. You can add 2 tbsps to our rice pudding recipe. It is used in pink Turkish delight so you will probably know what it tastes like. Below we give a recipe for rose petal jam, as rose water made at home doesn’t last very long and it’s readily available online from Asian food suppliers.
The best rose petals to use for this jam are red ones, but any sweet smelling rose petals can be used. Preferably though, use the red damask rose pictured here. This is good for the liver, and gets rid of acid in the stomach, and can be used as a laxative in traditional medicine. It is one of the ingredients that can be put in paan.

Equal amounts of sugar and rose petals

Put the sugar and rose petals in a clean glass jar and leave in the sun for 10 days. After that it is ready to eat, but can be kept for years. The longer you keep it the better it will become, especially if used as a medicine.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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