The Damascus rose flowers are renowned for their fine fragrance, and are commercially harvested for rose oil (either “rose otto” or “rose absolute”) used in perfumery and to make rose water.
The flower petals are also edible. They may be used to flavor food and Arabc sweets, and also as an herbal tea.
The roses are gathered by hand and brought to a central location for steam distillation.
Damascus Rose is optimally cultivated in hedge rows to help protect the blooms from wind damage and to facilitate harvesting them.
Gathering the flowers is intense manual labor. There are about 20–40 days per year when harvesting occurs, during the month of May.
The town of Qsarnaba, Baalbeck has been inhabited for thousands of years. Most historians assume that the Damascus Rose, have been cultivated in the area since Roman times.
Qsarnaba families still operate their own small distilleries and produce Rose water and rose syrup. The roses are still grown by the small family farms known for their high quality.
Damask roses are used in cooking as a flavouring ingredient or spice. Rose water and powdered roses are used in Persian, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Rose water is often sprinkled on meat dishes, while rose powder is added to sauces.
Whole flowers, or petals, are also used in the herbal tea “zuhurat”. The most popular use, however, is in the flavoring of desserts such as Arabic sweets, pudding, ice cream..