From the Genoese tradition a fragrant elixir that is good for the “heart”, but also for the lungs
It is not known why the tradition of working with rose petals developed in Genoa, where fresh rose petals are used not only to make rose syrup, but also sugared almonds and rose jam. The fact is that already a text dating back to 1683 written by Gian Domenico Peri, “The shopkeeper“, mentiones “the jams and canned sugar that are processed in Genoa as the most excellent that can be found anywhere else in the world“.
Today, after more than 300 years, the rose petal syrup is an excellence that is still produced by hand by a few producers in the city, two above all: the “Antica Confetteria Pietro Romanengo” (in Genoa since 1780) and the “Antica Farmacia Sant’Anna dei Frati Carmelitani Scalzi” (which has been producing rose syrup since 1700).
But in the Scrivia Valley behind Genoa, some producers are breathing new life into the production: the rose syrup is today a top product for them, given the strong demand especially from abroad, in particular from England and Japan.
What is rose syrup?
Preserved in small and transparent bottles so as not to hide that pale pink colour so romantic and inviting, rose syrup is today a niche product and a Slow Food Presidium, obtained in 2004 to preserve the artisanal production from Genoa and to differentiate it from industrial products.
To celebrate roses syrup, every year on the second weekend of June, the Rose Festival is held in Busalla: the event is organized by the association “The Roses of the Scrivia Valley“, created almost 20 years ago by Maria Giulia Scolaro who also produces the rose syrup in her organic farm in the heart of the park of Monte Antola.
Properties of rose syrup
Without forgetting the home-made production of rose syrup, especially from the Ligurian hinterland, which is still a “ritual” handed down from mother to daughter, we must consider that rose syrup is famous not only for the refreshing characteristics of this fragrant syrup, but also for its healing properties: it is an excellent anti-inflammatory for the mouth and upper respiratory tract and has diuretic effects.
And in fact the well-known French herbalist Maurice Mességué, in his “My herbarium” published in 1983 writes: “The infusion and rose syrup are fortifying tonics for the lungs and perform a tonic action on the whole organism: I recommend infusion and syrup, in particular, to the inhabitants of the metropolis who are worried about the conditions of their respiratory system, to the convalescents and the elderly. Fragile children will receive valuable help in overcoming certain growth crises”.
Symbol of love since time immemorial, not many know that the rose is a plant with many properties: the rose petals contain vitamin C, carotene, B vitamins, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, copper and iodine.
How to make rose syrup
But how to obtain rose syrup, this fragrant and beneficial elixir? First of all by selecting the rose petals very well: the roses must be of Damascena, Rugosa, Gallica or Muscosa Centifolia varieties (also called “Chapeau de Napoléon”). They are those flowers with a broad and rich corolla, dominating the floral compositions in the Victorian paintings.
The rose petals must be pink and not red – because, in this case, they tend to be more bitter – and must be collected from mid-May to early June, when the corolla is well open. Follow these suggestions while buying rose petals…
Let’s find out the rose syrup recipe
The rose petals must be separated manually and, once divided, they must be left “at rest” for one night. The recipe taken from Sergio Rossi’s book “Rose Syrup” is simple, you need: 1 litre of water, 1 kg of sugar (which can be brought up to 1.3 kg to taste), 300 to 500 g of fresh rose petals, the juice of one lemon.
Rose syrup recipe: the procedure
– Bring the water to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it on the rose petals. Stir the infusion vigorously until all the petals are well incorporated into the liquid. Add the lemon juice. Leave to rest for 24 hours at room temperature.
– After the infusion time, collect the liquid in a container and squeeze the rose petals with your hands until a compact and dry mass is obtained.
– Filter the infusion with a gauze or a sieve. Put the infusion back on the heat. Add the sugar, making it dissolve completely. Bring to the boil for a few minutes.
Bottle the still hot rose syrup (to avoid the formation of mould) in dry and hermetically sealed containers.
Rose syrup uses
Rose syrup can replace sugar in tea, herbal teas, infusions, while in summer, added to water and ice, it is an excellent refreshing.
It also finds space in various sweet preparations by adding it to yogurt, ice cream, slush, panna cotta, fruit salad and crepes. In the most refined and modern cuisine, there are also recipes with rose syrup to make savoury preparations, for example it is used as a sauce to pair with meats, or with fresh pasta.
And in fact, during the Rose Festival in Busalla, some farms in the area offer a menu based entirely on roses, from appetizers to desserts.
The “Antica Confetteria Romanengo” is very active in promoting rose syrup: in the shop, you can buy rose syrup and they also offer guided tours during the syrup preparation period as well as illustrative videos that can be found online. On the website, they have got the recipe for a cocktail, the Pink Prosecco: “Just pour a spoonful of rose syrup and mix with a good Prosecco, decorating the flutes with freshly picked petals“.
But rose syrup is definitively a perfect syrup for cockails: it can be combined and replaced in many mixed and shaken preparations.
May approaching, ready to plan a nice weekend between Genoa and the Scrivia Valley? Enjoy a unique food experience: make rose syrup directly at the farm with our expert Barbara…