You may have noticed beautifully labeled bottles of rose water on sale in shops around Cyprus. ‘Tamassos Rose Garden,’ their label reads. Although the elegant looking labels caught my eye, it wasn’t until I bought a bottle and tried it out that it also caught my nose – and my taste buds! This was the most intensely fragrant rose water that I’d ever come across.
Both Rena and I were immediately intrigued. Where did this rose water come from, how was it produced, and how did it get to be so fragrant?
We were even more intrigued when we called Tamassos Rose Gardens and heard the story behind the gardens.
"A young lad of 17, Kostas, planted the first rose bushes, and the whole production now comes from his family," we were told. Young Kostas even received an award from the Ministry of Agriculture for his fragrant rose garden, we heard.
As it happens, we are now in the narrow timeframe when the roses can be harvested and processed, and we were invited to go and take part to see how it’s done.
Uses for rose water
This idea immediate appealed to me as I’ve always been a huge fan of rose water, which I always have plenty of uses for:
- It’s great in pastries to add a touch of fragrance
- Rose water is used in the refreshing Μαχαλλεπί (mahallepi), a popular dish enjoyed during hot summer days (in next week’s article, we’ll share the recipe!)
- Add a few drops to a glass of water for a simple, subtle, refreshing drink
- Glyko tou koutaliou, the traditional Cypriot preserved sweets, can be made with rose petals (and is a great cure for constipation!)
- Rose water is a fantastic face tonic
- Or add one part rose water to one part almond oil, and you have a natural home-made make-up remover
- And for those parents and grandparents amongst us, we can use rose water as a gentle way to clean the eyes and face of babies.
So how is it that a young boy of 17, who was never promised a rose garden, wanted one and ended up actually creating one?!
Plato in the Meno had said: "All knowledge is within ourselves. It is simply a matter of remembering what we have always known but simply have forgotten."
Some seem more successful at ‘remembering’ and ‘discovering themselves’ than others.
How, then, does this discovery work? How does creativity work? Is it instilled into us from birth and left upon us to create... to progress? Are there any tips that can help us become more creative?
For many years, through my experience of bringing up four children, my personal opinion had been that stimulants surrounding us during our upbringing are of crucial importance.
Like roots that are important to a tree in order for it to grow, flourish and produce,
so are family roots important to children in order for them to grow, flourish and create.
Every family member has a role to play from the minute a child is born. These family members provide endless stimulants and help in keeping the roots healthy, lively, strong and balanced.
Relationships need maintenance and young souls learn a lot and keep their balance when they are surrounded by grandparents, uncles and aunts. Interaction, conversation and so on, I am sure, promote thinking, increase creative production, untap creativity and bring it to light.
Children get to know themselves simply by being directed in getting to know their roots –Kostas proved it.
In pre-Christian years, Pera Orinis was a neighbourhood of the well-known ancient Tamassos kingdom. This is where Kostas was born – surrounded by many relatives, strong roots and fertile fields.
“What has philosophising got to do with roses and rose gardens?” asked Rena as I chatted away while we were both cutting fragrant roses from Tamassos Rose Gardens at 5.30 in the morning, after jumping at the invitation to visit.
“Just thoughts,” I answered, as Mr. Stelios (Kostas’ father) showed us how to bend each rose and snap it off its stem. Mrs. Niki, his wife, handed us a bucket with a fragrant smile.
We started filling our bucket, working like professionals (or so we hoped!), together with our young friend Gratcia who had come with us to video the whole process.
We had started so early as the sun’s rays evaporate some of the essential oils in roses, so the harvesting needs to be done quickly. It’s an easy job, though, especially when there are lots of willing helping hands from relatives.
Before our first bucket was filled, the rose garden was buzzing not only with the first bees that started visiting the roses but also with the conversation coming to us from all over the garden: "My name is Kostas! I am the Pappous (grandfather).”
"I am Despina! I am the Yiayia (grandmother).”
“And I am another Despina, Kostas’ sister!” said a beautiful young girl with a wonderful smile.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings were all over the field – so many family members that we lost count.
But where was Kostas?
Kostas, it turns out, is actually away studying. His parents made a deal with him after everyone realised that his desire to make a rose garden wasn’t just a ‘kapritsio’ (a whim), but a real passion.
The land was there, the water was there, and as soon as the youngster left school the rose garden was all he wanted to do. So the family came to an agreement.
“Start your rose garden, but then go to university! We will take care of your rose garden for you exactly as you want it. Come back home with your degree, and after that you can take over,” his parents had said.
It was a promise that has been respected by the boy’s parents and his entire family. And somewhere, somehow, I am sure that this level of love and dedication has something to do with the incredible fragrance of the garden’s rose water…
In the next article, we’ll explore how Kostas and his family taught themselves how to cultivate roses, how to harvest them, and how the distilling process works.
At the end of the day, the phrase "from grandfather to grandson" – which generally holds true – has here been reversed, and has become "from grandson to grandfather"!