Flavor Investigator: Rose

Despite the vast amount of flavours seen in the western supermarket, one that seldom comes up is the floral flavour of rose. Instead, it is primarily seen in Middle Eastern countries as it is a basic flavouring component for a large variety of dishes.  The flavour of rose can be consumed through multiple methods such as oils, waters and even directly from the plant in the form of petals or rose hips.  Rose has a delicate flavour which is characteristically floral, fruity, perfume like and sweet.

Different Varieties of Rose

One of the more common ways to consume rose flavouring is through rose water.  Although it depends on the region, the typical way to produce rose water is by combing the sepals and petals of the Rosa x damascene with steam distillation.  However, if you do not have access to rose water in your supermarket another option is to create it yourself.  If you take the petals of a freshly picked rose and place them in a pot of distilled water and boil it off then your own personal rose water can be created.

Adding rose petals to your dishes can also add an extra level of flavour and colour. Before use the small white piece at the base of each petal should be removed as it contributes to a bitter flavour.  One of the easiest ways to use rose by drying the petals and grinding them into a spice mix or used to create a flavoured sugar.

Finally, rose hips are traditionally used to make jams, jellies, marmalades and soups.  Rose hips are the accessory fruit of the rose plant as it is a fruit in which some of the flesh is derived from the adjacent tissue exterior to pistils of the flavour. An example of an accessory fruit you might be more familiar with are strawberries. Rose hips are related to the apple family and as a result has a similar flavour.

Flavour Compounds of Rose Oil

There are multiple chemical compounds which give to the overall complexity of rose oil.  Rose oxide (2-(2-methylprop-1-enyl)-4-methyltetrahydropyran) is a type of monoterpene which produces flavour notes of green, rose, spicy, fresh and herbal.  But rose oxide is not just found in roses but also fruits such as lychee and elderberries. Phenylethyl alcohol is another characteristic delicate flavour of rose which has similar flavour notes to rose oxide.  The odour is described as having a floral, sweet, fresh and bready with a rosey honey nuance.

Possible Flavour Combinations with Rose

  • Rose and Rhubarb- Rhubarb without the addition of any sugar is intensely tart but once sugar is added then flavour is changed. Fruity, aromatic and candied strawberry notes develop and offset the strong aromatic, floral notes of rose.
  • Rose and Raspberry- Similar to rhubarb, raspberry has a tartness but an already built in sweetness. They have fruity and floral qualities which can pair with the floral rose. Overall, this combination is reminiscent of perfume.
  • Rose and Lychee- Lychee when mature have an exotic flavour which is similar to a “tutti fruitys” flavour. Lychees should be paired with rose as it brings out the fragrance of roses.


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