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Ghamsar, Iranian Capital of Roses and Rose Water

Monday, May 26, 2008

A report on rose water production ceremony

Every spring, the city of Ghamsar is adorned with beautiful rose flowers.
The people of Ghamsar then collect roses, boil them in special pots and collect their water in beautiful containers. It is a pride for the city that each year, the most sacred place on earth, Kaaba, is washed with rose water from Ghamsar.

As spring arrives and rose buds bloom to fill the whole city with their sweet scent, people flock to rose gardens before the sunrise and first salute Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his progeny before starting to collect flowers.

Ghamsar, a Patch of Paradise

The ancient city of Ghamsar is like a shining star on the central Iranian desert.
Surrounding mountains encircle it like a ring and protect its rose gardens against the heat of the desert. The environment of this garden city, the shade of trees and sound of flowing water in addition to music of birds and nightingales and fragrance of roses, has created an incredible milieu on the side of the desert.

The garden city of Ghamsar is a patch of Paradise which becomes colorful as the spring begins. Its beauty is doubled when rose water ceremony commences and its hospitable people play host to millions of people who love nature and rose water of Ghamsar.

Introduction of Mohammedan Rose (Red Rose)

Various types of rose water have been called red flower, Mohammedan flower or tea flower in Persian. Of course, this is not sufficient to cover diversity of flower species because, thus far, 20,000 species of rose flower have been discovered. In addition to crowning a special plant genus, rose flower is among the most perfect flowers in terms of structure, color, and fragrance and no other flower is equal to it in diversity and evolution.

The red rose, or Mohammedan rose, is further divided into seven groups: French red flower, wild rose, tea flower, red flower with many flowers, miniature red flower, Bengalese red flower, and Iranian red flower.

Out of all rose species, the Iranian red flower or Mohammedan flower is unique and most botanists have opined that it has been first planted in Iran and then taken to other countries.

Required Conditions for Growing Mohammedan Flower

Although Mohammedan flower grows under different climatic and natural conditions, due to importance of its essence and to have better results, it should be grown under specific geographical and climatic conditions. As the altitude of a region increases, the air is colder with cold and semi-dry winters and dry or temperate summers, this flower would be well off.

The best growth for Mohammedan flower is achieved under a temperature of 15-21 degrees centigrade. If difference between nocturnal and daily temperatures is 5-10 degrees centigrade, more essence will accumulate in the flower.

History of Growing Mohammedan Flower and Production of Ghamsar Rose Water

Experts maintain that Ghamsar has been a place for producing flower and rose water since a long time ago. Some believe that under Malekshah the Seljuk, when Miyandeh Mosque of Ghamsar was built, representative of an East Roman officials picked some roses from the slopes of Kouh Asbi mountain near Ghamsar and took them to Damascus (which was called Damask in those times) to be grown. This is why Iranian red flower is sometimes called Damask rose in English.

Although production of plant essences has a long history in Iran, but traditional rose water production machines were used to produce rose water for commercial purposes. Before that, rose water was produced through small distillation equipment for local uses. Anyway, production of rose water has been in vogue since ancient time and has sometimes led to prosperity of copper, glass making and packaging industries. Most of the local product is exported to other parts of the country and, therefore, despite most handicrafts, it has held its ground in contemporary times and has constantly improved in terms of quality and quantity.

Another outcome of that situation was spread of the industry to neighboring villages of Ghamsar and even to other provinces during past decades. The emphasis put on Ghamsar is due to high quality of its rose water which results from natural conditions of the city. The city has been and still is the main production center for the highest quality rose water as a result of its natural and climatic conditions. According to a study carried out by professors of Tehran University, the essence of Mohammedan flower of Ghamsar and the subsequent rose water has a concentration of 35 mg per 100 ml or 350 ppm, which makes it the finest and highest quality rose water in Iran and even in the world.

Traditional Rose Water Production Equipment

Equipment used for extraction of rose water in Ghamsar is nearly traditional and has hardly changed over the years. They include: 1. a copper pot with a capacity of 120-150 liters; 2. a big clay pot, which has not been replaced by the copper pot and is used to cover the pot. A major advantage of clay pot was that it did not burn the fragrance of the flower; 3. a copper pitcher with handle and a capacity of about 30-40 liters which is put in cold water, so that flower streams are turned into liquid; 4. four wooden canes which are attached to each other to connect the pot to the pitcher; today, they use aluminum pipes instead of those canes; 5. a water pool where liquefaction is done; and 6. heating equipment under the copper pot which is usually fed by oil or diesel fuel. In the past they used wood and bushes to warm it up.

Rose Water Protection Technique

First the copper pot is put on an oven made from bricks and cement or stones and mud. The heating agent is put below it. Then up to 30 km of rose petals are poured into the pot and 80 liters of water is added. The pot is then covered and a heavy weight is put over it to control steam pressure. Probable holes and cracks are covered with a mortar made of the remnants of boil flowers and bread dough to prevent loss of steam.

Instead of weight and dough, they use elastic washers, screws and levers. The copper pitcher is put into the water and is kept in place by a ladder, or more recently, by cast iron pipes, so that, it will not rise to the surface of the water. Then canes or aluminum pipes are inserted into the pot, on the one side, and into the pitcher, on the other side and they wrap it in a piece of fabric with a cotton ball, so that, water would not penetrate into the pitcher. Water or any other foreign object will ruin the rose water.

Now, everything is ready. They kindle the oven to boil the pot. At that time, rose water and water steam progress in the pipe as far as the angle. From there, rose water steam continues toward the pitcher and is liquidated due to low temperature of environment. It takes about 4 hours before a pitcher full of rose water (40 liters) is obtained. When they pour the rose water into the bottle, they wait for it to cool down.

Then they rub some oil on the bottle. The waste collected at the bottom of the pot, which is called “bongol”, is used to feed livestock and is also dried to be used as fuel in winter or as fertilizer for gardens.

The method used for rose water production in Ghamsar has been developed over many years and through valuable experiences of local people. It should be noted that although rose water production seems to be easy at first, it is a very delicate operation and every small detail could greatly affect the quality of the end product. Rose water production method used in other places, includes a pipe with no slope for rose steam and water and the pitcher has no lid. However, in Ghamsar, they use aluminum pipes with a slope of about 45 degrees with the pitcher firmly sealed. The pitcher is then put into a cold water pool which prevents loss of the essence. The slope of the pipe regulates the mass of materials which are needed to make the rose water. That is, it prevents unnecessary substances to get through. The clay pot which is put on top of the copper pot and the cold pitcher prevent disintegration of the essence.

During the whole process, the flame should be steady and mild. In better words, the longer the distillation period and the steadier the flame, the higher would be quality of the end product. The water poured into the pot should be measured accurately to be proportionate to the weight of flower petals.

Industrial Rose Water Production in Ghamsar

Ghamsar is the breeding ground for the finest and the most exquisite Mohammedan flowers and has the best traditions and methods for production of rose water. It is also the first place where industrial production of rose water has begun and there are many workshops in the city which produce rose water. The first rose water production plant in Iran was established in Ghamsar in 1974-75 after studies were conducted by Bulgarian experts. It was built on the outskirts of Ghamsar (at 15th kilometer of Ghamsar – Kashan road). The second rose water production plant was established at the entrance of Ghamsar city and is called Golriz. The cooperative company of rose water producers of Ghamsar has established a plant at industrial park of Ghamsar in order to solve the problem of pasteurizing traditional rose water, which was the main hurdle on the way of production and sales of rose water. Behin Golab Company of Ghamsar is another example of industrial rose water production plants in the city and more plants will be launched soon.

Applications of Mohammedan Flower, Rose Water and Essence

Due to containing tannin, gallic acid, essence, fatty acids, pigments and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), petals of Mohammedan flower are used not only for production of rose water and essence, but for production of rose petal jam.

Since a long time ago, this plant was used in traditional medicine to treat various diseases including chronic diarrhea, rheumatic pains, blood abnormalities, and sore throat.

The part of the flower, which is used to produce rose water and essence, is petals. Boiled petals of Mohammedan flower are alkaline and constitute a good remedy for stress, flatulence, and abdominal colic. The boiled petals are also used to fight depression and to treat palpitation, insomnia, ordinary and bloody diarrhea, sickness, and inflammation.

In the past, rose water was used in traditional Iranian medicine to treat rheumatic heart disease, to strengthen gastric nerves, and to treat some forms of headache and sickness.

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