What do red bell peppers, broccoli, and papayas have in common? They’re uber sources of vitamin C. But there’s another source of vitamin C. One that few people think of…
It’s true. Rose hips are so loaded with vitamin C that during World War II, they played a key role in children’s health. More on that in a bit.
Where can you find rose hips?
Well, maybe at a farmer’s market, but certainly not at the grocery store. Go outside. Now look for rose bushes. Rugosa roses, if you’re lucky. Rugosa roses bless you with pink and luxuriously fragrant, palm-sized blooms. And in the fall, these same bushes are ablaze with golf ball-sized red and orange rose hips.
Plainly speaking, rose hips, also known as haw or rose hep, is the edible fruit of a rose. Did you know that rose hips are one of the richest plant sources of Vitamin C around? Get this: Two medium-sized rose hips (or one of the larger hips) have more vitamin C than a medium orange.
And I always thought oranges were the poster child for Vitamin C…
Plus, they contain an alphabet of vitamins such as A, B, E and the minerals calcium, iron, and phosphorus. (Hello ladies: We need calcium from non-dairy sources).
What is vitamin C, anyway?
Sometimes called ascorbic acid, this vitamin supports your immune system. Big time. It also helps your body use the iron you intake from food. Your body also uses Vitamin C to make collagen. That’s the springy connective tissue that makes up parts of your body and helps heal wounds.
Oh, and it’s an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. We need between 75 and 90 milligrams per day. FYI: A medium orange has about 70 milligrams, but many other foods are good sources, too.
In China, the hips are known as jin ying zi and are mainly used as a kidney chi (energy) tonic, an astringent prescribed for urinary problems.
Yes, roses and their fruit “hips” have a long tradition of medicinal use. With our modern meds and fast foods, we often forget what real food is, or where it comes from.
Roses are good for the skin and the soul.
During WW II: Rose hips for the children
When German submarines were sinking commercial ships, it was difficult to import citrus fruits into parts of Europe. The people of Britain were encouraged through letters to The Times newspaper, articles in the British Medical Journal, and pamphlets produced by Claire Loewenfeld, a dietitian working for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, to gather wild rose hips to make a vitamin C syrup for children.
Can you see that happening these days, making syrup from wild plants to improve the health of our children? It’s a nice thought.
Forget the bouquets, I’d rather eat a rose
I’ve never been a big fan of roses by the dozen. So don’t bother giving me a bouquet of red roses. First of all, commercially grown roses are highly treated with chemicals. And, no scent. What’s with that?
I prefer wild roses, like the rugosa roses that grow around my home town of Kodiak, Alaska. They are richly fragrant. Commercial growers should be jealous.
I use rose petals to make a beautiful and tasty vinegar. I sprinkle rose petals on salads. And I make rose water, something that’s been used for thousands of years. (Watch the video below).
Rose water is a wonderful facial cleanser or toner. After washing your face, spritz it with rose water.
Since rose water is sweetly fragrant, it’s a natural air freshener–a much better alternative to chemical-filled perfumes.
How to make your own rose water
Back to rose hips, what do they taste like?
Rose hips, to me, have a tangy, yet sweet flavor. A little on the rich side, I think. If you haven’t tried one, find a bush and with a gentle twist of the hand, pick a hip and bite into it. Then take a moment to admire the different colors:
Ruby-red on the outside. Salmon-orange on the inside.
So, all this talk of wild food, what can you do with rose hips? Lots. Rose hips can be used in a wide variety of dishes, including syrups, preserves (rose hip catsup is superb) jams (my favorite is rose hip-orange marmalade), jellies, teas (often mixed with hibiscus), sauces, breads, pancakes, muffins, and desserts.
What is the best time to gather rose hips? Autumn.
How to eat a rose hips…
And why would you do such a thing?
In my experience, it’s best to harvest rose hips after they turn red or bright orange. Better yet, after they’ve been kissed by frost.
To dry hips, spread them on a cookie sheet. Place them in an oven set on the lowest setting. I prefer to use a food dehydrator. My favorite is the Excalibur. Or, depending on the humidity where you live, you can simply put them in a dark, well-ventilated area. After drying, store them in glass jars in a dark, cool place.
To prepare rose hips for tea, cut off the bloom stem, cut the hip in half (and again in quarters, if extra large), and scrape out the seeds and hairy pith. This can be very tedious with tiny hips, so save small hips for jellies, because it all ends up staying behind in the jelly bag anyway.
What’s my favorite jelly? A 50:50 blend of rose hip juice and apple juice.
When dried, use rose hips in place of raisins or currants. Bake them in banana bread or sprinkle them on top of oatmeal. And for a unique dessert, jazz up your next pumpkin, apple or rhubarb pie by replacing some of the pumpkin with pulp made from rose hips.
Here’s a recipe for Rose Hip Nut Bread, that I adapted from the culinary classic, Cooking Alaskan:
Rose Hip Nut Bread
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup seeded and chopped rose hips
- 2 TBL melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts, sesame or sunflower seeds
In a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients and blend with wet mixture, stirring only until moistened. Fold in nuts or seeds and spoon into a greased, 5×8-inch bread pan, muffin tins or 9×9-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour (less for muffins and 9×9 pan).
If you don’t have time to make jelly, bread, or sauce, freeze the hips for later. Simply gather your rose hips, clean them and either chop them or put them in a pan with a little water and cook them gently until soft.
There you go. Roses aren’t just beautiful to photograph and sniff during the summer. They’re incredibly edible, all year.
Thanks for checking in. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and I’ll put a pot of rose hip tea on for you.
P.S. You might also enjoy…
THROUGH MY CAMERA: FALL COLORS IN KODIAK: — One of my favorite photo essays
ORGANIC GARDENING TIPS • COOL CLIMATE GARDENING: A general guide and helpful links
CRANBERRY SALSA RECIPE AND 8 CURIOUS FACTS ABOUT CRANBERRIES: Yummy recipes, helpful tips, and lovely photos
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