The rose is considered the most beautiful flower in the world, renowned for its exquisite fragrance. Originating in Persia, it has been cultivated since at least 500 BC in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
For centuries, the rose has been a symbol of beauty and love. While the Greeks and Romans dedicated the rose to the gods, the Persians associated it in their poems and paintings with the nightingale. Once the flowers complained to Heaven that their queen, the lotus flower, slept at night. In order to achieve reconciliation, Allah has named the white rose Queen of Flowers.
Of the hundreds of rose species grown around the world, the Damask rose (Rosa Damascena) is the most fragrant of them all. The exquisite fragrance of this rose has been captured and preserved in the form of rose oil and rose water by a method that dates back to ancient times in the Middle East, where it is still highly valued as food, cosmetics and traditional medicine.
Bulgaria and Turkey are currently the main producing countries of the Damascus rose. The Valley of Roses, an area just south of the Balkan Mountains, is Bulgaria's main production location. The picking season lasts from May to June. It is intensely manual. The flowers are carefully chosen, one by one by hand, and placed in willow baskets every morning before dawn.
Today, Damask rose is harvested commercially primarily for use in high-end perfumery. Bulgarian Damascus rose (otto rose) essential oil can cost upwards of $500 an ounce! Damask rose is also highly valued and used in cooking as a flavoring ingredient or spice in Persian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Damascus rose water is very popular in flavoring desserts such as ice cream, jam, Turkish delight and marzipan. Whole flower buds and Damask rose petals are also dried to infuse a delicious herbal tea called ""zuhurat"".