Legend has it that Emperor Djihanguyr once ordered all the fountains and canals in his gardens to be filled with rosewater in order to celebrate his marriage to Nour Djihan. Dreamily floating down the canal, her hand trailed in the rose water, the scent lingered on her hands, and humanity began its love affair with roses. Ahhh, yes. All of the blooming rose bushes this time of year are simply a sight and scent to behold. Many gardeners take cultivating roses très seriously, and a garden tour is just not complete without a glimpse of the luscious, full blooms that have come to represent lust, love, decadence, beauty, and even the handiworks of God in our lives. While the gorgeous physical characteristics of the rose get all the attention, rosewater and rose oil have profound healing and antibacterial properties. In fact, studies show that certain bacteria will actually die within five minutes of contact with fresh rose petals. From insect bites and skin problems, to heart palpitations and migraines, roses have been also used to heal many maladies for centuries.
The popularity of rosewater rose oil has made it so you have to be careful which brands you purchase, as mass-market production oftentimes uses roses that have been grown with pesticides, which you certainly don’t want to be slathering on your skin or baking into your shortbread. Why not take a few minutes to distill your very own bottle of rosewater and rose oil this month? Late-June into early-July is the perfect time to harvest your roses, arrange them in a vase for dinner, then throw them in a pot to use in culinary recipes and natural remedies over the course of the year. (Full disclosure: mystics say that you must harvest your roses in the morning, once the dew has evaporated. Um, yeah. I’ve got kids; that ain’t happening…)
Thoroughly clean and remove the petals from the rose. (Only have 4-5 roses? Use what you have and determine the amount of water you use based on this. It will only impact that amount of rose water you end up with). Next, place only the petals into a pot and cover with enough distilled water to merely cover the rose petals. Warm, don’t boil, over low heat until the rose petals lose their color and the water takes on the color of the roses. Strain the water and pour your rose water into a jar or container. Store in the refrigerator, where it will remain good to use pretty much indefinitely.
Rose oil Recipe
This recipe is only slightly more complicated, but one use after a shower and you will be hooked! Harvest and clean about 1 cup of roses, removing the petals. Cut up the petals, place in a heat-resistant glass jar and cover petals with about 1 cup oil. I find that a light oil, like grapeseed, works best. You can certainly use olive oil if that is all you have. Next, put rose and oil-filled jar into a bain-marie and warm for about 20-30 minutes. Place jar on a windowsill for a day or two, then strain the petals from the oil. If the scent is strong enough for you, place in a dark glass bottle and store in a dark, cool place. If the scent is not as strong as you like, repeat the process until you have the desired scent.
Yes, it really is that easy! While you can do all sorts of fantastic things with rosewater and rose oil, I usually keep it simple and use the rose water as a facial toner and wound spray and the rose oil as an after-bath oil, wound ointment, and to safely treat my wooden cutting boards and utensils. Not only do they smell divine, but they are simple to make yourself, and that intoxicating scent of the rose connects us to the ancient knowledge of those that came before us.