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Rosa × damascena, more commonly known as the Damask rose or simply as "Damask", or sometimes as the Rose of Castile, is a rose hybrid, derived from Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata (Huxley 1992). Further DNA analysis has shown that a third species, Rosa fedtschenkoana, is associated with the Damask rose (Harkness 2003). The Damask rose is commonly used to flavor food and to make rose water

Description and history

The Damask Rose is a deciduous shrub growing to tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles. The leaves are pinnate, with five (rarely seven) leaflets. It is considered an important type of Old Rose, also for their prominent place in the pedigree of many other types. They are renowned for their fine fragrance, and their flowers are commercially harvested for rose oil used in perfumery. The perfume industry often refers to this rose as the Damascus rose.

The Crusader Robert de Brie is sometimes given credit for bringing them from Persia to Europe sometime between 1254 and 1276. The name refers to Damascusmarker, Syriamarker a major city in the region. Other stories say the Romans brought the rose to England, and a third account is says that the Henry VIII's physician gave him a Damask rose, as a present, around 1540.

The hybrid is divided in two varieties (Huxley 1992):
  • Summer Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. damascena) have a short flowering season, only in the summer.
  • Autumn Damasks (R. × damascena nothovar. semperflorens (Duhamel) Rowley) have a longer flowering season, extending into the autumn; they are otherwise not distinguishable from the summer damasks.

A still popular example of R. × damascena is the Ispahan rose. The hybrid Rosa × centifolia is derived in part from Rosa × damascena

Culinary uses

Damascus roses are used in cooking as a flavouring ingredient or spice. It appears as one of the ingredients in the Moroccan spice mixture known as ras el hanout. Rose water and powdered roses are used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Rose water is often sprinkled on many meat dishes, while rose powder is added to sauces. The most popular use, however, is in the flavoring of deserts such as ice cream, jam, turkish delights, rice pudding, yogurt and etc. Chicken with rose is a popular dish in Persian cuisine. Western cookery today does not make much use of rose or rose water. However it was a popular ingredient in ancient times and continued to be popular well into the Renaissance. In the west, it was most commonly used in deserts. Many traditional deserts in Europe, however, still make use of roses, such as Marzipan or Turrón.

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