rose hips

As a forageable, wild food source, rose hips are a very sustainable fruit that are immensely nutrient dense and often naturally organic. Rose hips can be harvested off nearly any type of rose, and are thus easy to obtain, as roses are one of the most commonly cultivated flowers in many gardens around the U.S. Historically, rose hips were used by many Northern European peoples as a rich source of vitamin C, which has created a plentiful library of uses for rose hips in the form of delicious foods and beverages. Learn about the benefits of rose hips and how to harvest and use rose hips with our short guide on this practical and pretty plant.

Nutrition
Most roses begin blooming in late spring after the petals of the blossoms fall off and small green hips (or hypanthiums) form at the blossom’s base. Roses are related to plums, apples and pears, which also form their fruit at the base of their flowering branches. However, rose hips are filled with tiny seeds unlike their fleshy relatives. But the most nutrients can nonetheless be found in the skin of the fruit. Surprisingly enough a single serving of rose hips contain 20 to 40 percent more vitamin C (dependant on variety), 25 percent more iron and 28 percent more calcium than an orange. In addition they also contain vitamins B-3, D, E and A as well as citric acid, flavonoids, fructose, malic acid and zinc.

Harvesting
Rose hips can be harvested from any type of rose, but wild roses produce the most flavorful and plentiful harvest. Since wild roses grow throughout the world and in every state in the U.S., it is not too difficult to forage for rose hips. There are thousands of varieties of wild roses, most of which are edible. Domestically cultivated garden varieties that produce nutrient rich roses are Rosa rugosa and Rosa gallica, although other varieties also produce rose hips that can be used for culinary purposes. In order to harvest rose hips, you must not cut the rose off the stem, as the tip of the stem is where the hip forms. Let the blossom form and the petals fall off naturally, and you will see the hip form and eventually turn red. Since wild roses produce plenty of hips, gathering large amounts from them is quicker and easier than from small garden varieties of roses.
Be aware that most roses have thorns, so leather work gloves or long sleeves may be a good idea for protecting your skin when harvesting. If harvesting from wild roses, make sure the area has not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.

Uses
A tea can be made from rose hips by steeping 1-2 tablespoons of fresh or dried hips in hot water for 10-15 minutes, and sweetened to taste.  Fresh rose hips also make a delicious syrup for pancakes, ice cream or even in a hot beverage. To make the syrup rinse the fresh hips and place them in a saucepan with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil and then lower then lower to a simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and then strain the mixture, gently pushing any juice from the hips through a strainer being careful not to burst them open so as not to let out the seeds.  Mix one part honey to two parts rose hip juice, dissolving the honey into the liquid before refrigerating the syrup. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or can be hot water bath canned to keep it longer. Rose hip juice can also be used to make jellies, wines and dessert soups that are refreshingly tasty and full of vitamin C.

Drying and Storing
To dry rose hips, discard any discolored or wrinkly hips and then rinse them with cold water. Spread them on a woven drying rack or wax paper lined cookie sheet and place them out of the sun in a dry place. It will take a few weeks for the hips to dry, after which they should be poured into a glass jar and stored out of the sun in a dry room with even temperature.

Image: Craig Stanfill

Source: Dr. Weil