Roses: Rosewater

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans managed to extract fragrance from the rose by steeping petals in water, oil, or alcohol. And it is probable that the technique of distillation of rosewater evolved in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD in Mesopotamia.

By the 9th century Persia was distilling rosewater on a large scale. It is, however, usual to name avicenna, the famous physician of the 10th century, as being the person who discovered rosewater. It was in his time that the use of rosewater as a flavouring for food came into vogue in the lavish and sumptuous cuisine of the Arabs. It was used to flavour a variety of dishes and was even sprayed over the surface of the cooking pot.