by Olivia Miller on February 27th, 2017
Up until the late 1970s the Lalehzar Valley in Iran was a difficult place to make a living. Farmers grew subsistence crops and supplemented their income by growing opium poppies illegally for heroin production – at 10,000ft atop the Iranian Plateau the arid climate is suitable for little else.
Production of rose water in other parts of Iran dates back over 2 millennia; so when Homayoun Sanati inherited land in the valley he had the idea to cultivate Damask roses for this purpose. After planting an experimental field of roses the Iranian Revolution happened and Mr Sanati (who by day worked as a translator at an American publishing company) was arrested on suspicion of being a CIA agent. Over the five years he was held prisoner, without him keeping watch, the farmers of the valley watered the roses less and less. Eventually they went for months on end without getting a drop. What was surprising was that the roses did not wither and die, but continued to thrive and produced the most exquisite and intense aroma.
Seeing the resilience of these plants and the relative ease of cultivation many of the farmers switched from poppies to Damask roses. Now several hundred farmers grow roses organically in the valley on plots smaller than 10 acres. Our organic rosebuds are hand-picked in June and simply air dried in the sun. Their sweet, exotic aroma and smooth floral flavour is a total delight.