It would be difficult to miss the aroma of roses in the air during late spring as you approach Agros, a tiny village 3,300 feet up in Cyprus' Troodos Mountains. This is rose-gathering season. And here, in the early morning, you'll find local villagers and volunteers alike carefully removing the pink rose buds and petals, collecting them for distillation into rose oil and later rose water at a local plant. It takes petals from approximately 500 roses to make a little less than a gallon of rose water. The Rosa Damascena bushes originated in Persia and were believed to be the first flower used to make oil there during the 10th century. Several hundred bushes were brought to Agros in 1917 toward the end of World War I to encourage a returning school teacher to start a cottage industry. Now what was once an experiment has blossomed into a thriving international industry in which rose water creates quality cosmetics and culinary applications. Rose water and rose-water syrup play an important role in Middle East and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, as well as brandy, liqueurs and even aromatic candles. Don't miss the rose parades, distillation demonstrations & traditional food tasting. And forgo that spritz of perfume before the festivities -- you'll be smelling like a rose in no time.
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