My friend Karen Ribble, Hair Braider extrordinaire and long time friend asked me about Rose Hips last month, so I decided to write this month’s newsletter to answer some of her questions and to refresh my own memory about how to harvest, use and store them. Since it’s February, the month of Romance due to Valentine’s Day, I thought this aspect of roses would be very appropriate.
Roses have been used for flavoring, ceremonies and health for centuries. Evidence of the use of roses dates back to 2000 BCE in Crete where drawings of roses appear on the walls of the Palace of Knossos.
You can see the roses in the upper right of the picture.
From that period forward to today, roses are evident in many cultures, including ancient Rome, Persia, India and China, to name just a few. Here is a short article on some of the ancient history of the Rose.
In America, fossil evidence of the rose has been dated to some 40 million years ago. It was then that a rose left its imprint on a slate deposit at Florissant, Colorado. Fossilized remains from 35 million years ago have also been found in Montana and Oregon. Here is further information on the Rose in Amercia from Texas A&M Horticulture.
Now that we have determined Roses are a fabulous flower, some originating in the United States, wtih myriad uses, let’s concentrate on Rose Hips, the seed pods of the Rose. Oh, you didn’t realize Roses produce seed? Of course they do. Just like any flower. It’s just that mostly Roses are grown from cuttings or, now, tissue culture, that we rarely think of growing Roses from seed.
Not all Rose Hips are created equal. If you notice the pods or hips on various rose types, some are very large while others are much smaller. The large hips are the ones prized for collecting for tea and other uses. Many people think the rose that produces the best hips is the common wild rose, also known as the Dog Rose.
Photo courtesy of Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association
Other roses produce hips, of course, some larger or smaller, some tastier than others. As always with collecting plant parts from the wild or your own garden, make sure they have not been sprayed or treated with an insecticide or pesticide.
Rose hips are traditionally collected in the fall, after they turn red. They’ll be sweeter after a frost, but it is not necessary to wait for a frost to collect them. Many people who grow roses never see the hips or seed pods because they dead head the flowers when they fade. To produce the hips, the flowers must be left on the plant to wither and die on their own so they produce the seed pod.
Ripening Rose Hips
Photos courtesy of CharmaineZoe
Ripe Rose Hips. You can see the seeds inside.
Photo courtesy of Mother Earth Living
Now that we’ve established what Rose Hips are and where and when to collect them, what the heck do you do with them? Are all parts of the Hip edible? Well… not really. The seeds generally have lots of little hairs around them that are irritating to the mouth and can cause internal itching if quite a few are ingested.
Most people rid the seeds of the hairs by first drying the hips. Then, pulse them in a blender or food processor- or if you don’t have one, you’ll have to pound them a bit. The idea is to break up the dried hips into pieces about the size of coarse sea salt. Then, place the broken pieces of the hips in a strainer and shake it. You’ll see dust and the little hairs fall out. That’s it! There may be a few hairs left, but that won’t hurt you. Just keep shaking and stirring the dried hips in and around the strainer to get out as much of the dust and other parts that will fall through the strainer as possible. Then, you can store the hips in an air-tight container for later use.
Recipes using Rose Hips
Rose Hip Tea
Tea is probably the most common use for Rose Hips. Due to its high content of Vitamin C and other healthy components, Rose Hip Tea can be drunk during the winter to help keep the immune system strong to combat colds and flu. And… it tastes wonderful! It’s flowery and fruity, delicious with a dab of honey or even cinnamon.
This lovely photo came from a blog called lovelygreens.com
You can make tea with either dried or fresh rose hips. If fresh, don’t worry about the little hairs on the seeds, they’ll stick to the seeds and won’t come off into your brew.
Tea made with Dried Hips:
Pour 2 cups (1 pint) of boiling water over 2 teaspoonfuls of dried hips in a tea pot, jar or other container. Steep 10 minutes or so, strain and enjoy!
Tea made with Fresh Hips:
Cut off the calyx- where the flower was- and chop the fruit. Prepare as for tea made with dried hips, using about the same amout of hips.
Rose Hip Syrup
Rose Hip Syrup is made with the tea you make with either fresh or dried hips.
- 1 cup Rose Hip Tea
- 1/2 cup Honey
- Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until honey dissolves. Makes 1/2 pint.
- Store in refrigerator. Syrup will thicken slightly as it chills.
- Reheat for use on pancakes, waffles, ice cream.
The heated syrup can be canned by pouring it into hot, sterilized 1/2 pint jars and processing in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Those of you reading this who live where rhubarb grows abundantly, may want to try this refreshing Spring punch.
Simmer chopped rhubarb in Rose Hip Syrup until tender. Strain and adjust sweetening as needed. Chill and pour over ice, adding mint or lemon balm for garnish.
Rose Hip Syrup can be used to sweeten hot or cold herbal, black or green tea as well.
Rose Hip Puree
This is from a 16th century recipe used to make rose hip tart
- 1 1/2 cup prepared rose hips
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 T sugar
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t ginger
- 1 T lemon juice
- Simmer the prepared rose hips in water until soft — about 10-15 minutes. Stir in sugar, spices and lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes. Use puree for tarts, ice cream toppings or to eat as a sauce.
Some books you might enjoy on growing and using roses:
Resources for roses with good hip production:
There is lots of good information to be found on the Internet regarding growing old or antique roses, gathering rose petals as well as hips and recipes using roses and rose hips. You can spend a lifetime learning about Roses. This is just a start!
QUOTE FOR THE MONTH
There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
-Andrew Carnegie, industrialist (1835-1919)