After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages pervaded and the economic and agricultural systems that stemmed from the Romans crumbled. Most of the aesthetic gardens in the Roman colonies went to seed leaving only those that provided food, such as vegetables and orchards. Ironically it was during the Dark Ages that the science of herbal medicine made great strides and the unique trustee of ancient Roman and Greek scholars’ knowledge was the Catholic Church.
This was the time when monks pioneered agriculture. Each monastery had its own orchard, vegetable garden and a hortus conclusus, or closed garden. The closed garden was used to grow herbs that were both spiritual and curative. Lilies and roses formerly woven into the wreaths of the Roman gods Isis and Aphrodite were now used to worship the Madonna. The importance of these gardens was such that around the year 800, the emperor Charlemagne sent each of his intendants a list of those plants that were to be cultivated in his empire. The document was known as De Capitularis and of the ninety plants listed the iris and rose were first and second respectively; followed by several other commonly know herbs such as sage, rosemary, cumin, mint, mallow and coriander. These plants played important roles, both culinary and medicinal. They often conferred taste and color to foods and perhaps most important, they preserved foods and masked the taste and odor of overaged meats. During the 1100’s the Crusades came upon the Italian town of Salerno which was the site of a renowned medical school founded by four doctors, an Arab, a Roman, a Greek, and a Jew each of whom was appointed the guardian of the secular knowledge of their people. These men were recognized as true masters and their teachings would influence European medicine for centuries to come. Rose petals and buds were used by women to enhance the beauty of their hair and skin. Not surprising, knowing that following the rose blooming a rose hip develops, and a rose hip contains a multitude of vitamins which have properties that enhance one’s skin amongst its other properties. There are more different kinds of roses than of any other plant in the herb category, and they all provide rose hips of one description or another. One variety of rose is even called ‘Tea Rose’ named for the resemblance of its fragrance to black tea.
Tea uses – Rose petals are commonly used to make a tea blend or infusion colorful and visually appealing. If teashops want to create their own signature blends, rose petals and buds can make your blend distinctive and a blend that only ‘you’ can create. A special blend helps build loyalty amongst your customers and is well worth the effort. A lovely recipe using rose petals is called Darjeeling Rose Orange Cinnamon Tea – a delightful mix of rosebuds with an orange cinnamon zest that can be consumed hot or iced. This tea is best consumed without milk. For each serving you will need: 1 1/2 teaspoon of Mim Darjeeling estate tea, a large pinch of rose petals and buds, a teaspoon of orange peel and a pinch of cinnamon. Mix everything together and prepare as you would for a normal cup of tea.