A Rose is a Rose is a Rose!


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” spake the great Bard, though he may not πŸ™‚ have been alluding to the flower at all. And there are many magnificent rose hybrids today that are a lot of show, but hardly any legendary fragrance.

R is for Rosa. The Indian desi Gulab or musk rose (Rosa moschata), a very fragrant rose variety, is closely related to the Damascus rose (Rosa damascena) that originated in Persia. It produces small flowers (2 to 3 inch across) with red or pink petals. The petals retain their delicate fragrance long after drying, which makes them an ideal ingredient for potpourris. The desi gulab is grown on a large scale for the ayurveda and cosmetic industries.

Rose oil is an essential ingredient in itr, oil-based Indian perfumes. Rose water is used in the preparation of many Indian and middle-eastern dishes. A hint of fresh roses is what makes the rasgulla taste so refreshing. Gulab ark (rose extract) is also a key ingredient in Hamdard’s ever-popular summer drink Rooh Afza. Milk shakes made with Rooh Afza are part of my childhood memories – what a deliciously pretty pink that milk shake is!

Gulab, along with the fragrant mogra (Jasminum sambac), is (was?) the flower of choice, to decorate a newly-wed couple’s room (a bed of roses?). Some of the rose petals strewn on our bed got into the gaps of the mattresses and delicately perfumed the bed for months!


I have a couple of plants in my garden πŸ™‚ . These are hardier than the hybrid tea roses and don’t need to be fussed with much. Just prune them twice a year – at the start of the cooler season, and at the end of summer. Because of inadequate sunshine, I get too few blooms. But I put them to good use this year. I made Gulkand (rose-petal preserve) (I could have dried πŸ™‚ them). A couple of teaspoons-ful πŸ™‚ . Gulkand is the traditional sweetening agent in the Indian meetha paan.


(rose petal preserve)

rose petals of fragrant roses such as the musk rose
granulated sugar
few grains of citric acid crystals

Pluck roses in the morning, at the barely-bloomed stage. Remove the petals. Rinse them in cool water, and drain. There is no need to pat dry. Spread a layer of rose petals in a clean, dry glass jar. Sprinkle with granulated sugar – 1 (level) T for each flower. Muddle using the back of a spoon. Repeat till you have used up all your petal. Add citric acid and mix. Leave in the sun to cook for a week or more, mixing every other day.

You may have gulkand on its own, by the spoonfuls, or use it in recipes calling for rose petals. Ayurveda assigns cooling properties to gulkand and it’s consumption during the hot season is believed to be beneficial.

Recipes using the Rose or its extract, just the antidote to the summer heat:

Dijaj Machboos (Middle Eastern Chicken with Rice)
Aphrodite Cakes
Strawberry Rosewater Ice Cream
Rose-hip Tea

This is my entry to the Flower Fest this time on the roundup for R. Flower Fest is the is the brainchild of Nature & Me and Sree


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A self professed urban ecologist!

34 thoughts on “A Rose is a Rose is a Rose!”

  1. you are a mind-reader, girl. my absolutely fragrant hot pink climbing rose has about 20 huge flowers and i didn’t want to waste the petals. was about to go trawling for a gulkand recipe.
    your roses look fabulous. my mom would make gulkand with honey.

    20 roses! Ohhh, I am so envious. But, in my mother’s garden…. πŸ˜€ These finally started to bloom when I moved them from what I had thought was a sunnier spot to their present place. But next season they should find place on that terrace garden!

    Glad to be of help. You can replace sugar with honey if you like – I kinda like to watch the sugar crystal disappear gradually into this pink syrup.

  2. yup…my amma too makes gulkand with honey. mmm… i can almost taste and smell it sitting here…
    oh!!! for me rose water means facials too;)

    Yes, Sia, facials too! Pour out some rose water into a small dish and refrigerate. Dab cotton wool pads in it and put on your eyes – cooling and refreshing. Homoeopathy uses rose water as eye drops!

  3. I never heard of such thing before. I don’t have rose garden, how can I try this?

    Then you’ve to try this, Lata! Maybe you could procure good (organic) damask roses from somewhere – maybe even a friend or a neighbour?

  4. wowwwwww never seen a recipe for gulkand.. excellentttttt….

    Hi Revathi. Welcome to this corner of the blogosphere.

    And it’s a very easy no-cook recipe too!

  5. This is truly amazing, I never knew (pardon the ignorance) that the rose petals are edible and can be made into something as delicious as a preserve. Thanks for the enlightenment Anita.

    A very warm welcome to you Cynthia πŸ™‚
    Roses are very edible (as long as they have not beens prayed with pesticides – and this desi variety doesn’t need to be!) – we would eat them off the plant when we were kids! But Gulkand is totally different – we need to find more innovative uses for it since I don’t make paan at home anymore (MIL used to).

  6. Roses in the US are sprayed with lots of chemicals to make them last. These are not edible! So unless you have grown roses in your own garden or you know that they are organic and edible, do not try this at home! I’ve been looking for organic roses and found a nursery in CA that I haven’t yet bought from.
    Here comes the dampner fromTLO πŸ™‚
    US is really over sprayed – no wonder you see less roaches and hardly any ants in the house. In my house, as soon as winter is over, you can’t leave the roti dabba evenslightly open, or a piece of bread lying around. In a few hours, you’ll find an army of ants all over it! You don’t understand the magnitude of this till you read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
    It is sad when you can’t grow vegetables in your own yard, and not get to clean roses. Very sad indeed. Hopefully, the developing world will resist the dumping/over use of these chemicals on our soils and water. Sometimes being poor can have hidden benefits!

  7. πŸ˜€ …………… This preserve I have made already…. LOL (is recalling a certain comment)
    When I was a teenager, I was way into “old/heritage roses” and had a damask, a cabbage, a moss(cabbage sport), a gallica, and a rugosa… they’re all dead now except the rugosa and gallica- (my mother hates roses. At my last house I grew severalrosa alba, which are also used to make attar I hear.
    I admire your making this! And suprised as well… no, maybe not… πŸ˜€ Some recipes remove the lower whiter section of each petal because of the slight bitterness, but I didn’t either; it has enough sugar in it.
    Trust you to have made it when you were a teenager!
    You must have been the most straight πŸ™‚ teenager there ever was – your mum must have been so happy.

    On removing the whites – I may be a good cook, but I am not the most patient of them! Some of my mother has rubbed off on me, naturally!

  8. We are just now putting in a rose garden at our new home. (New as in, we’ve lived here for two years and are just getting around to roses!) We are putting in five climbers: two purple ones, two orange-red ones, and one that changes colors from yellow to peach to red as the blossoms age. Then, three hybrid tea roses: one smoky chocolate red, one blackish red and one purple splashed with white. And, we are talking about putting in a floribunda that is one of the most fragrant roses I have ever grown–the name is Bell’Aroma. It has huge yellow-cream blooms blushed with coral pink and the scent of the one we used to grow at our old house filled our entire dooryard, and would waft into our home through open windows.
    Thank you for the links to my recipes, btw!
    I love gulkand–maybe I will make my own next year when the roses are really established. I use gulkand as the filling and glaze for a cake that is flavored with cardamom and almond. Sometime I want to make almond barfi and swirl gulkand through it, but I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet.
    Pelicano–gallicas are impossible to kill, and I am glad of it. Great roses!

    Hi Barbara. Wow, there’s going to be roses by the bushels soon!

    I bet those yellow blooms would make a very unusually coloured gulkand!

  9. Wow making Gulkand at home ? Have heard about this never ventured to make it. My and most of the neighbour’s rose plant gets a infested by a japanese beetle every year after the first bloom. Tried lots of ways but they always come back and destroy the roses 😦

    Hi Sandeepa. Take the plant out πŸ™‚ and grow an old rose variety that is native to where you live. It might work.

  10. I should have qualified my earlier statement with store-bought roses.
    You most definitely can grow your own roses and make gulkand. I have a few pathetic looking rose plants but I don’t know what the previous owner may have sprayed them with at one point or another. Which is why I am not willing to use them.
    My okra – it’s looking sad – will go into the ground this weekend. Backyard gardening and veggie patches are definitely possible!

    Gardening can be a test of patience sometimes! But the successes are so heartening that we keep trying. πŸ™‚ So keep talking to those okra plants πŸ˜€ They’ll come around.

  11. You were lucky. Our friends sneaked into our apartment and put marigolds and asters on our bed, garlands on the curtains and petals on the fan, which rained down on us when we turned it on. I have a picture of that cos I was expecting it.
    Those flowers, btw, had ants in them. Since we were pinching pennies at the time, we couldn’t get rid of our gaadi. We tried everything but there would be at least one ant that made it alive. So for at least 6 months after our wedding day, we would wake up screaming cos one of us had been bitten. With friends like ours, we really don’t need any enemies.

    Raining rose petals is not bad at all! But the ants – ouch! And those bites itch forever!

    But it did make for memories πŸ™‚

  12. Oh dear Manisha… memories! LOL πŸ˜€ My snake-gourds haven’t sprouted yet 😦
    Anita, yes… back then my mother adored me! πŸ™‚ You’re so fortunate to live in a climate where you can grow musk roses; the frost would kill them here; I might be envious…despite your admitted impatience. πŸ™‚
    Barbara- are you talking about that fabulous cake you made in a rose-shaped mold? Spectacular…yeah, that gallica (I forget its name, either Cardinal de Richelieu or Charles de Mills) is quite stubborn; it was planted 25 (!!!!) years ago.

    Back then? I bet she appreciates the halva, the cheese cakes, nam prik,… ❗

  13. The sweets, yeah…any sweets. The nam prik wan? Not unless I trick her- she knows too well now what it looks like! πŸ˜€
    Did you know (probably you do!)that the old method of making potpourri is very similar to gulkand-making? The petals are layered with salt to make a veritable, fermented pickle, which preserves the fragrance. Then you dry it out…”pot pourri” means, in English, “rotten pot”… (yes, I’ve made this too)

    Yes I do. Ans those would last for years with occasional additons of brandy! I have never made any kind of potpourri – just dried gulab leaves in bowls.

  14. Gulkand and the rose plant look really good. I almost
    feel like eating but,
    I like the look and smell of it but I am one of those weird ones, don’t like to eat anything which has flowers, unless it is a cauliflower.
    It took me a while before I could palate jasmine tea! I suspect it had something to do with wearing jasmine in our hair… πŸ˜€

  15. Ah! Yes, occasional sprinkles of brandy! Don’t tell me you own a copy of Potpourri, Incense, and Other Fragrant Concoctions…? There’s a lovely poem within its pages called The Old Pot-pourri Jar.

    Nope. You are the one with all the quaint – rare, as well as popular cookbooks. But lovely poems you could share..on your blog

  16. …and ladies of the East tie up their tresses with jasmine blossoms at night so that they will be perfumed the following day…

    And ’tis the season for the gajaras – at every traffic stop they are being sold – 3 (each 6 inches long) for Rs 10!

  17. An idea, fine and fabulous! …”gajaras”…carrots?
    Which is the fabulous ‘idea’ are you are talking about, pray?

    Gajaras (guj-rah) are stringed flowers to adorn those tresses πŸ™‚ In North Indian they are usually made from motia/mogra, and chameli, in the summer.

  18. Anita I was just telling Bee about sun cooked marmalade and here you are with sun cooked Gulkand. I learn so much from you all the time. Thanks dear.

    I have a lot of space here but since I travel my Dad won’t let me do any gardening. In Mumbai too he would end up taking care of my plants and pets so none for me now. When I see you guys doing so much of it I miss it all.

  19. ooh I missed this post! My mouth is watering looking at the picture. I did not know it was so easy to make gulkand at home. Thanks Anita for the recipe. I’m going to try this when I get some pesticide free petals.

    Hi Shilpa. How come you missed my roses?!

    I’m sure you’ll find some organic roses to make your own gulkand. Then try it in paan… yum.

  20. Haha, I’ll try =D
    Or I’ll tell my grandma to try it πŸ˜€

    I hope it was the quantity that you found amusing… Try it.

  21. I love roses and if I had to pick a type it would be the English Roses by David Austin. Gertrude Jekyll does its best to be a climber but that is worth putting up with for the delicious perfume.

  22. I am so happy to have found this thread! I live in Mexico part of the year, and North Carolina is my other home. I returned back to North Carolina this year after being gone a year. What I came home to – about 10,000 rose blooms! Years ago, when my children were small, we planted many heirloom varieties of roses. I dreamed that some day the perfume would fill the air. I then spent the years raising my children, and didn’t do much with any of the roses. I sort of ignored them and waited. For the first few years, we had a few blooms, and each was precious. I didn’t really remember the roses, but at least 50 of the plants survived these 10-15 years, and are doing really well. True to my dreams, the air is perfumed with roses, and I can’t even begin to gather all the blooms. I am making rose vinegar, dried rose petals, rose water, and most importantly, rose gulkand! Jars and jars and jars of it. I am opening a spa at our hotel in Mexico this year, and will use the dried rose petals for treatment ingredients, and the gulkand as a lovely post-treatment snack with tea, .Thank you so much! I want to encourage all of you to buy and plant heirloom variety fragrant roses, even if you plan to move, someday someone will sing your praises for your thoughtfulness! I think women especially do things with a trusting spirit, and with hope for the future.

  23. I am still discovering new blogs stage – and a fairly new blogger. lovely recipe of gulkand, reminds of meetha paan from bangali market in delhi.

  24. Hi Anita,

    I just knew your site from Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. I live in New Zealand and I grow roses my own, ranged from English roses to Hybrid Tea and Floribunda. However, the Damask is not on the list, but it’s something I will look for in the future (I still got some space for it hehehe). Thanks for the recipe and I am sure I will try this out! Cheers!

  25. Dear so nice of you.Recipie is too good and i will try that.But if it is possible than please mention the active ingredient of rose n its medicinal uses as i AM working on Indian desi rose.thanks n regards

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