Rose Hips – Not just Beautiful, but Edible, too!
People have grown roses for many centuries and for many reasons. Most folks grow roses for their beautiful flowers. However, for much of the history of the rose it was also used as a source of food and medicine.
Rose hips are a good source of vitamin C, having a much higher content than citrus fruit. During World War II, with limited imports, British volunteers gathered hips from the hedgerows for making the rose hip syrup distributed by the Ministry of Health. However, I am not suggesting them as a replacement to more superior vitamin supplements that may be available today.
Besides being healthful, rose hips offer the adventurous cook a different ingredient. Rose hips have a tangy yet sweet flavor and can be used fresh, dried, or preserved. The simplest use is to steep them for a tea. Rose hip syrup, puree, jam, jelly, and sauce can be used as is or as a flavoring in other recipes. The hips are usually left on the bush until after the first frost when they are bright red and slightly soft. NEVER USE THE HIPS OF ANY ROSE THAT HAS BEEN TREATED WITH A PESTICIDE.
To prepare rose hips, trim off the blossom and stem ends with scissors, cut in half lengthwise, remove the tiny hairs and seeds in the center, and rinse. To dry the hips, simply spread the prepared halves in a single layer on screens or trays and place in a dehydrator, an oven on the lowest setting, or in a dark, dry, well-ventilated place. Store the dried hips in glass jars in a dark, cool place.
You can make rose hip puree that can be added by the spoonful to soups, cereals, juices, fruit salads, and sauces or spread on bread to provide extra vitamin C. You can find many recipes for using rose hips on the internet.
The somewhat spherical fruit of the rose, usually red in color, is seldom allowed to develop on modern garden roses, but the old-fashioned shrub types like the Rugosas (Rosa rugosa) bear them abundantly. In my previous garden, I had several of the Rugosa roses because they are tough plants that tolerate dry conditions with few pest problems. They bloom May-September in colors of white, pink, and red, and are deliciously fragrant. If you leave the hips on the plants, they provide food for songbirds.
Check your local nursery for species of the Rugosa roses or conduct an internet search to find mail-order sources.