Fascinating Article on Making Rose Water

Every Spring, An Idyllic Iranian Town Turns Fields of Roses Into Rose Water

By distilling their harvest of pink roses, locals make a fragrant ingredient.

A worker picks roses as butterflies dance over the fields.

A worker picks roses as butterflies dance over the fields. PHOTOGRAPHY BY EBRAHIM MIRMALEK

The soft, pink color of dawn still lingers in the sky, and the first golden rays of the sun are just starting to touch the tips of the surrounding mountains. Yet in the rose fields of Qamsar, a small town in the highlands of central Iran, work is already underway. Amid the chirping of nightingales, locals make their way into the fields, where the crisp morning air is heady with the thick aroma of Damask roses.

In a rose field on the outskirts of town, I watch as Javad Jafari picks rose after rose. His calloused, nimble fingers break each stem right below the petals with almost reverential delicacy, before he drops them into a length of cloth tied around his waist and neck. Like many of the other rose pickers who are busy in the fields around us, 66-year-old Jafari has been picking flowers since he was a young boy, helping his father in their family farm, or harvesting the flowers of neighbors. During the rose season, he wakes up at 5 a.m., says his morning prayers, and heads to the fields.

Javad Jafari, picking roses as the sun rises.
Javad Jafari, picking roses as the sun rises.

From late May to the middle of June, idyllic Qamsar becomes a dazzling canvas of pink roses. Rows upon rows of the plants, known in Iran as Mohammadi roses, bloom over the course of 25 days. Every year, hordes of tourists from all over the country and abroad come to watch as workers, farmers, and entire families pick roses and distill them into rose water.

Javad Jafari has been picking roses since he was a boy.
Javad Jafari has been picking roses since he was a boy.

The result is a culinary and therapeutic extract that has been used in Iran and the Middle East since ancient times. Qamsar is one of Iran’s main producers of rose water, an ingredient that flavors and aromatizes ice cream, baklava, rice pudding, and many other dishes in the Persian kitchen. Persians also use rose water to treat everything from headaches to heartache, as the fresh graves of the newly deceased are washed with rose water.

Across Qamsar, rose fields are in bloom.
Across Qamsar, rose fields are in bloom.

Rose water has religious purposes as well. Before the political rifts of recent years between Iran and Saudi Arabia, rose water from Qamsar anointed the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, twice a year. “This is the rose of the prophet, you know,” Jafari says, referring to the belief that the prophet Mohammad used the essence of Damask rose for both its fragrance and its therapeutic benefits. While the local name reflects this connection, abroad the rose often goes by Damask. One tale has it that the rose was brought to Europe by a crusader, who picked up the flower in the Syrian city of Damascus.

A rose picker, holding a handful of flowers.
A rose picker, holding a handful of flowers.

Yet research done by Dr. Ali Nikbakht, associate professor of horticulture at Isfahan University, postulates that the Damask rose was first grown and used in the Qamsar area 2,500 years ago. “The unique combination of strong sunlight and cool mountain air makes Qamsar ideal for the Mohammadi rose, with the roses grown there having the highest quality in all of Iran,” he says. At the time, rose petals were placed in oil to extract their essence. The first evidence of the steam distillation used today is found in the writings of Avicenna, the 11th-century Persian polymath who used rose water extract for medical purposes.

Javad Jafari leaving with his bag full of hand-picked roses.
Javad Jafari leaving with his bag full of hand-picked roses.

Jafari finishes picking the last of the roses just as the sun edges over the mountains, filling the valley with unwanted light and heat. “It’s best to finish picking them before the sun comes up over the mountains,” he says, explaining how direct sunlight and heat cause the delicate fragrance of the roses to evaporate, resulting in lower-quality rose water.

Jafari then swings a plastic bag containing over 15 kilograms of rose petals over his shoulder, and we make our way to a distillery owned by Haj Reza Aghayee, a relative of Jafari and a second-generation rose water maker. Like many other rose water makers, Aghayee has turned what used to be a seasonal job done by farmers into a full-time business that uses one ton of roses per season. Aghayee attributes the increase in sales to local transportation improvements and the recent popularity of herbal remedies in Iran. 20 years ago, he only sold rose water and a handful of other extracts, such as mint. “But now we sell over a hundred types,” Aghayee says.

Freshly picked flowers are poured into a copper still.
Freshly picked flowers are poured into a copper still.

Despite this prolific production, his distillery, like most in Qamsar, still employs traditional methods. In the distillery, Aghayee’s son Alireza adds Jafari’s roses, along with petals from other rose pickers, into a round copper still containing 70 liters of water. The amount of rose varies, depending on whether you want a “heavy or light extract,” Alireza explains. Their “two-fire” rose water, an exceptionally potent variety, is only made in small quantities due to its price and the huge amount of roses needed to make it.

Rosewater vapors collect in submerged flasks.
Rosewater vapors collect in submerged flasks.

Next, Alizera takes a metal lid, called a toghar, and places it on top of the still. Latching it shut, he turns on the flame below the still. Once the mix of petals and water has begun to steam, Alireza connects aluminum tubes to outlet valves on the still, guiding the fragrant steam along the tubes to large flasks submerged in a pool of cold, flowing water. For the next four hours, the steam will condensate and collect in the flask, producing about 40 liters of rose water.

In the Shahre Golab Rosewater Store, the distillation process has begun.
In the Shahre Golab Rosewater Store, the distillation process has begun.

With the process underway, Alireza turns his attention to a previous batch left to distill overnight. After removing the tubes and the lid, Alireza first removes the precious rose oil that has collected at the surface of the flask. He carefully lifts the jelly-like oils with a spoon and collects them in a jar. Later, it will be used to make perfume.

Then, after lifting the filled 40-liter flask from the pool of water with a small ceiling-mounted crane, Alireza pours the freshly distilled rose water into 20-liter tanks for storage. But first, each tank itself is rinsed with rose water to wash out any contamination. Rose water is very sensitive, he notes, and any droplets of water could cause it to prematurely lose its fragrance. Like the making of a unique wine, there are many subtleties to the distillation process. “They may seem like small things, but they make a difference in the final product,” he says.

Cold water is added to the rose petals.
Cold water is added to the rose petals.

In addition, the stills are strictly made out of copper, since copper catalyzes certain reactions that remove unwanted flavors. In other parts of the country, straight distillation tubes are traditionally used, yet distilleries in this region have always utilized two upside-down, V-shaped tubes to ensure that any impurities in the vapor are stopped in the upward slope of the pipe. After distillation, rose water is traditionally stored in tinted glass to prevent any loss of the precious scent that occurs with a plastic container. However, these days rose water is predominantly stored in plastic bottles, due to costs and breakage concerns.

Rosewater products, such as these inside the Shahre Golab Rosewater Store, are sought after by visitors to the town.
Rosewater products, such as these inside the Shahre Golab Rosewater Store, are sought after by visitors to the town.

Despite the harsh economic times in Iran, the rose water business is thriving as domestic and international demand continuously grows. It’s still only mid-morning, but Alireza has four stills simmering, and he is awaiting the next delivery of flowers. “Business is good,” he says. “We have five stills and we refill them three to four times a day.” His father agrees. “If you’d come here 50 years ago, you’d only find five rose water producers; now there are maybe over 200,” Aghayee says. While Bulgaria and Turkey produce more rose water than Iran, Aghayee sees change coming. “The industry is growing every year,” he says. “And that is great, because rose water is a Persian tradition.”

Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.
Sign up for our email, delivered twice a week.

Advertisements

The Never Ending Job Of The Tomato Lady – Good Thing It’s A Labor Of LOVE!

I just finished up the second wave of tomato plants yesterday, March 25th.  n 4 days, I transplanted 4289 little guys. Couple that with 1480 plants destined for gallons, that brings me to 6769 plants. I will be seeding a third wave, almost exclusively early and cherry varieties, including a few more Sungolds. Those will be for after Garden Expo when we usually are out of these plants. In this area, everyone wants a short season variety or a cherry, which in my book are a usually shorter season than the big, later season heirlooms.

My suggestion for those who live in Deer Park and other short, short season areas is to buy the plants you want in a gallon size. They are almost 2 months more mature and will produce sooner than the same in a smaller pot, even if they are almost physically the same size. That is the only way I can get Pink Brandywines here (and they are delectable).

Tomorrow I start on flowers. We had to put up another temporary greenhouse to house them. One of these days I will do a post about how we construct our greenhouses. We recycle and reuse!

bush-goliath-32418.jpg

Some of My Favorite Seed Companies – The Tomato lady

samson in gardenHere is a list of seed companies that I interact with on a regular basis. Good prices, nice selection of varieties, excellent seed quality, and good customer service! (My cat, Samson, has nothing to do with this subject but he sure is cute and is in the garden! Sam is a Maine Coon)

Seeds n Such
I love that this gentleman used to own Totally Tomatoes and decided to retire, which didn’t suit him so he opened up Seeds n Such. One of the nicest things about him is that their shipping is right in line with what it should be and they have a deal whereby if you buy 20 packets of seeds, they are all $1.99. Believe me, it’s easy to find that many things you want.

Tomatofest
Lots and lots of heirloom tomato seeds, some I have never heard of. The really nice thing is they are “local” –  California based. Most companies are midwest or eastern based companies. (I love them too, I just like buying local if I can)

Totally Tomatoes
Many, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Now they have other veggies. so I guess they aren’t “totally” tomatoes anymore! That’s ok, I like the variations.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds
This is for the flower growers. Veggies are good for your bodies, flowers are good for your soul. They have a nice variety, good prices, and quality seed. I love the pictures on the website, and they are fast!

Geo Seed
I recently found this company. I can’t remember how but am sure glad I did. Prices are phenomenal, customer service outstanding (Dora rocks!) varieties are numerous. Stuff you didn’t know you needed! the only drawback is that they don’t have pictures (but that is what the internet is for, right?) and at this time, you can’t order online. Mere nuisances. They have trade packets and bigger bulk sizes. I’d recommend the trade packets for home gardeners.

Fedco Seeds
I found this company in the last couple of years also. I love that they are a Cooperative and represent seed from a lot of small, independent growers. Great website too, lots of pictures. I found they have seeds with great histories; for instance, I found a winter squash called Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash (a mouthful) on their site. it was passed down forever and as far as I can see, it’s not available anywhere else. it is delicious! Lots of fun stuff!

Irish Eyes Seeds – Located in Ellensburg, WA, Huge selection of potatoes and garlic and other cooler climate veggies.

High Mowing – I ordered from them last week and they have great selection and shipping was surprisingly fast. Out of Vermont.

Baker Seeds Great selection, good prices, and reasonable shipping. Unusual heirloom seeds from all over, rare and exotic seeds from around the world. Two examples: Thai Lavender Frog Egg Eggplant and Sichuan Red Beauty Radish. I have to be honest, some of them are so odd I can’t imagine growing them, like the Sakurajima Giant Radish, considered the world’s largest Radish. it’s white and bigger than my head! Definitely, an entertaining place to visit.

Snake River Seeds – They are new, at least to me, and I have yet to order from them but I will. they have bulk seeds too and they are local to me. In their own words:

“Snake River Seed Cooperative is a collective of family farmers in the Intermountain West who work together to produce a wide diversity of locally-adapted seeds. We believe that sharing seed saving knowledge with farmers in our region is vital to growing a robust, regional seedshed.”

While I can’t name everyone I like dealing with, (actually I could AND include all the links but I do have other things to do today!) here are some other companies I recommend, just search for them on the internet: Parks, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Victory Seeds, Pase Seeds, Harris Seeds to name a few.

Don’t forget Northwest Seed and Pet. It is the best and biggest gardening store that I know of here in Spokane. They have a HUGE selection of seeds, a lot of which you may not have heard of. They carry their own bulk brand, Burpees, High Mowing, Baker Seeds, Snake River Seeds, Botanical Interests, Irish Eyes and many, many more. Don’t miss their cat, give him a scratch.

 

Just A Little Something I Did To Pass The Time Today

Today, I transplanted 557 baby flowers into their 3.5′ pots. Pansies (Bolero, Fizzle Sizzle Mix and then the Yellow and Blue, Chianti, Colussus, Super Swiss Giants, Heat Elite, and Flirty Skirts), Petunias (Silver Tidal Wave, Dolcissima Flambe, Subperbissima Doubled, Fluffy Ruffles, Pico Bella, Spellbound in Pink, Wine Red, Dark Purple and White Blush, and Evening Scentsation), Impatiens (Accent Mystic, Red Flash, Star, Athena Red Flash, Athena mix Impressa Cherry Splash and Shady Ladies Blushing Beauties, alyssum, and Verbena (Peaches and Cream and Scentsation) tomorrow the alyssums and lobelias. Pansies and Petunias are some of my very favorite flowers.

Of course, nothing looks like this but hope springs eternal, at least for us gardeners. Winter has finally shown up and we have almost a foot of snow on the ground, maybe a little more. I had my stereo on and a heater keeping me warm as I transplanted, dreaming of summer days and bright happy faces of pansies. I do love the snow but it is mid=February and it should be done by now. Maybe next year we could have winter in December and January!

Oh, I also planted the one Godetia that came up. The seed was pretty old.

 

Behind the Scenes: Planting Peppers Seeds,, Petunias, Lobelia, Alyssum, Pansies and Million Bells

pepper-seeds

Here you are looking about 1000 or so peppers seeds.

planting-peppers-2-2018

Here I am planting pepper seeds and some flowers. I planted 50 different varieties of peppers, superhots, sweet bell, non sweet bells, hot and medium hot peppers. I was scared to death to touch the seeds from the superhots so I used tweezers to place them in the seedling pots. My luck, I would have touched them and then my eye, not thinking! Ouch! This was on January 15. They have almost all come up now. We have a ton of baby jalapenos. For all of my seeds I use a sterile seed starting mix and clean single pots. Damping off is an ugly thing!

planting-petunias-2018

This is how my pelletized petunia seed came. It is put into a gel cap, and looks sort of like Contact cold medicine. Depending on variety, there are 5 to 10 seeds. I love working with it in this form, much easier to not over sow. In it’s “wild” form, it is like brown dust. You might think you used 25 seed but in reality, you just dispensed 349 seeds!

planting-petunias-2-2018planting-petunias-3-2018

Such tiny little seeds.

planting-petunias-4-2018

Petunia and Million Bells seeds don’t like to be covered. They need light to germinate. Peppers on the other hand need a thin scattering of seed starting mix over them. Always read your seed packet to see what the light requirements are for germination.

planting-petunias-5-2018

Million Bells is another one that I like to work with pelletized. They are coated with a clay like substance. the seed lays on top (press into the seed starting mix) and wet with water. This softens the clay coat and they are able to germinate. I use tweezers to distribute as evenly as I can so they can grow after germinating and not crowd each other. They take a long time to obtain a size that I like transplanting. I have found there is no point in rushing them.

planting-petunias-6-2018

What To Do When Dahlia Tubers Sprout Early?

Those of us who save our dahlias have probably encountered this problem. I know I have. Here is the answer to that question courtesy of Garden Making. I believe they are out of Canada so they use celsius temperature which is easily convertable.

What to do when stored dahlia tubers sprout early? By Garden Making

Question: Michael in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, asks:
Dahlia tubers that were stored in peat moss in the basement have started to send up shoots. They’re  in the coldest part of the basement, but it is 14 to 16°C in the room with about 35% humidity. Should the sprouts be trimmed off? Left alone?

Answer: Nick Vanderheide of Creekside Growers in Delhi, Ontario, says:
The issue at hand is really the storage conditions. Dahlias will sprout under warm, damp conditions, and anything above 10° C is considered warm. The humidity level of the room may very well be 35%, but do you know what the humidity is in the peat moss? You want to maintain a decent amount of moisture in the tubers (not the media it’s stored in) so at 35% room humidity, it is a good thing to put them in peat moss to prevent them from drying out.Heat is the big deciding factor in sprouting. Spring soil temperature is usually around 12 to 16°C when we plant and that causes the tubers to sprout, so if they are in a room at that temperature they will definitely start growing.

In the Netherlands, this sprouting is actually how new, true-to-type, dahlias are produced. The tubers are forced indoors to produce little shoots which are then cut off, rooted and grown as plugs to then plant in the field for the summer where they will produce a new tuber that can be harvested in the fall.The shoots on your tubers can be trimmed or not; they will not affect the viability of the tuber come spring time.

One thing to consider, though, is that the tuber is simply a storage organ for the energy it needs to grow come spring time, so if your tubers continue to try to grow, they are using up energy that they need in the spring to become a big, healthy plant.I would strongly suggest getting those dahlias into a colder area to slow down that sprouting. And then stop worrying—spring is only a few short months away!

Source: What to do when dahlia tubers sprout early?

Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

adelaide festival 7 6 17This is a long article but I thought it is worth sharing.

Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with VegetablesPlant a profusion of pollen- and nectar-rich flowers among your edible plants to naturally control pests, boost pollination and provide pretty pops of color. Here, learn some of the best flowers to plant with vegetables and get tips for arranging your space.By Rosalind Creasy | February/March 2015     As you plant flowers in the vegetable garden, play with colors and textures as the author does in her beautiful central California edible landscape.Photo by Rosalind Creasy In the 1970s, when I was a budding landscape designer newly exciting about strategizing the best flowers to plant with vegetables, I attended the garden opening of one of my clients. As I walked around anonymously, wine glass in hand, I overheard many guests exclaiming, “Do you see that? She put flowers in the vegetable garden!”In the United States, segregating vegetables from flowers still seems like such a hard-and-fast rule that when I lecture on edible landscaping, one of the first things I mention is that I’ve checked the Constitution, and planting flowers in a vegetable garden is not forbidden. Not only can you put flowers in with vegetables, you should.I admit that, in the ’70s, I first intermixed my flowers and vegetables because I was gardening in the front yard of my suburban home and hoped the neighbors wouldn’t notice or complain as long as the veggies were surrounded by flowers. Soon, however, I discovered I had fewer pest problems, I saw more and more birds, and my crops were thriving.It turns out that flowers are an essential ingredient in establishing a healthy garden because they attract beneficial insects and birds, which control pests and pollinate crops. Most gardeners understand this on some level. They may even know that pollen and nectar are food for insects, and that seed heads provide food for birds. What some may not realize is just how many of our wild meadows and native plants have disappeared under acres of lawn, inedible shrubs and industrial agriculture’s fields of monocultures, leaving fewer food sources for beneficial critters. With bees and other pollinators under a chemical siege these days and their populations in drastic decline, offering chemical-free food sources and safe havens is crucial. Plus, giving beneficial insects supplemental food sources of pollen and nectar throughout the season means they’ll stick around for when pests show up.-Advertisement- Envision an Integrated Edible LandscapeOne of the cornerstones of edible landscaping is that gardens should be beautiful as well as bountiful. Mixing flowers and vegetables so that both are an integral part of the garden’s design is another key. Let’s say you have a shady backyard, so you decide to put a vegetable garden in the sunny front yard. Many folks would install a rectangular bed or wooden boxes, and plant long rows of vegetables, maybe placing a few marigolds in the corners, or planting a separate flower border. In either case, the gardener will have added plants offering a bit of much-needed pollen and nectar.Integrating an abundance of flowers among the vegetables, however, would impart visual grace while also helping beneficial insects accomplish more. Plentiful food sources will allow the insects to healthily reproduce. Plus, most of their larvae have limited mobility. For example, if a female lady beetle or green lacewing lays her eggs next to the aphids on your violas, the slow-moving, carnivorous larvae won’t be able to easily crawl all the way across the yard to also help manage the aphids chowing down on your broccoli.In addition to bringing in more “good guys” to munch pests, flowers will give you more control because they can act as a useful barrier — a physical barrier as opposed to the chemical barriers created in non-organic systems. The hornworms on your tomato plant, for instance, won’t readily migrate to a neighboring tomato plant if there’s a tall, “stinky” marigold blocking the way.Create Cool Combos of Flowers and VegetablesTo begin establishing your edible landscape, you should plant flowers with a variety of colors and textures, different sizes and shapes, and an overall appealing aesthetic. After you’ve shed the notion that flowers and vegetables must be separated, a surprising number of crop-and-flower combinations will naturally emerge, especially if you keep in mind the following six guidelines.1. Stagger sizes. Pay attention to the eventual height and width of each flower and food plant (check seed packets and nursery tags), and place them accordingly. Tall plants, for the most part, belong in back. They’ll still be visible, but they won’t block the smaller plants from view or from sunshine. A good rule is to put the taller plants on the north and east sides of your garden, and the shorter ones on the south and west sides.-Advertisement-2. Consider proportions. A 6-foot-tall sunflower planted next to an 18-inch-tall cabbage would look lopsided. Instead, place

Source: Wise Pairings: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

The Biggest and Most Beautiful Petunias, Fluffy Ruffles, That I Grow (and Sell in the Spring)

CA-Giant-3Also known as Superbissima Grandiflora. In fact that is the only name I had for them for the longest time. After doing some research, I found out they used to be called California Giants and are an heirloom petunia from way back. They are no longer commercially grown, at least I’ve never seen them at the big box stores or local nurseries.

They are huge, sometimes reaching 5″ across! In colors of dark purple and lighter pink, they have fantastic, contrasting veining in their centers.

CA-Giant

Fluffy Ruffles

Fluffy Ruffles has, well, a lot of ruffling! Double Fluffy Ruffles has even more.

CA-Giant-4

Double Fluffy Ruffles

Dark green foliage, rounded leaves and thick stems compete the plant. Usually when a plant is not carried commercially in the petunia world, it’s because it doesn’t live up to the weather or produce reliably. I have not found this with this petunia. It hangs from a basket nicely, is a pleasure to deadhead, lasat for a long time and produces lots of blooms. I use it with other flowers to fill a pot. Because it is so stocky it holds up well to the weather in my garden.

floral-display

This is my favorite petunia! If you would like to come by and see it in my garden and the different ways I use it give me a call. I’ve had people come by and are stunned and perplexed when they see it. They don’t know what it is! You can buy them from me next spring as I will always grow it.

Planting Flower Seeds in the Snow

I started 36 kinds of flowers today, impatiens, petunias, pansies, lobelia, snapdragons, canterbury bells, stock and schizanthus. Was thinking I’d only need 12 seed flats for the pansies, then got to thinking about how much I’d like the other flowers to be blooming if possible and they take a long time from seed to flowering. This year I am starting them a little over 2 weeks earlier. Hard to believe I am in the greenhouse with no coat enjoying the sunshine before the incoming snowstorm…in December no less.

I wanted to start a petunia called petunia grandiflora superbissima  and couldn’t find any seed in the states. Thompson and Morgan used to have some retail outlets here and then for some reason stopped a couple of years ago. Made me sad, they had some really cool varieties. After doing an internet search for the seed, I found them available from three different seed houses in the UK. Two have agreed to sell them to me, I just hope shipping isn’t horrendous. Here is a picture of this flower. Beautiful. 4 to 5″ blooms, frilly with gorgeous and unusual veining in the throat. They are pinks and purples. They also have white but I haven’t had any that I remember. They come as a mixed color. One of my favorites.

big-petunia3big-petunias-3big-petunias-6

Sunflower Jelly – The Nerdy Farm Wife

And you thought there was nothing new under the sun! I might try this. If you do, let me know.

 

I first got the idea for making sunflower jelly whilst I was pondering the happy row of flowers in my garden and wondering what other uses I could extract from them besides the seed. I remembered reading that the petals were edible and could be sprinkled in salads. During further research, I read that Native Americans used a decoction from the head for respiratory ailments. Whether this is completely true or not, I have no

Source: Sunflower Jelly – The Nerdy Farm Wife