If you grow roses, you may have noticed the ornamental red or orange rose hips that are currently putting on a show in the garden. These are the edible fruits that develop after the bloom fades.
To the gardener looking for one last fruit to harvest, these hips are packed with vitamin C and can be used to make tea, jelly and a folk remedy for sore throats and colds.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to harvest rose hips from plants that were heavily sprayed with pesticides during the growing season.
For the crafter, hips are an inexpensive and colorful way to decorate wreaths and garlands for the holidays ahead. And a bird watcher might like to grow roses and leave the hips on the bush to provide nourishment for migrating birds and winter food for songbirds.
For culinary purposes, the time to harvest is after the first frost. Nearly all roses produce hips, but the tastiest are produced by the rugosa rose, whose flavor has been likened to that of cranberries. If you get serious about using hips in the kitchen, consider that rugosas bear the largest fruits, up to 1 inch in diameter. The hips of wild roses — which can also be harvested — are much smaller.
A rose hip is what develops after a rose flower is pollinated. It contains the plant’s seeds. You can tell the ripeness by the hardness and color, most often red or orange but it can also be purple or black. A ripe hip is soft to the touch and slightly wrinkled.
To clean a hip, trim off the stem and blossom ends. Slice each hip in half and remove the seeds and all the fine hairs around the seeds, as these can be an irritant. The riper the hips, the easier to clean and the sweeter the fruits.
If you plan to use them in crafts, harvest when the hips are at full color and while the flesh is still hard. They can be used to make Christmas-tree garlands or for wreaths. To string a garland, use a large, sharp needle and dental floss. Once it has been strung, hang the garland in a dark closet to gradually dry.
Rose hips have been used in applesauce, stew, bread and pie. There are dozens of recipes on the Internet. In “Backyard Medicine,” a new book by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, there is a recipe for wild rose hip vinegar, which can be used on salads or as a remedy for a sore throat.
To make the vinegar, put 20 to 30 rose hips in a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. Leave on a sunny window sill for about a month, then strain and bottle.
For sore throats, mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a little warm water, gargle and swallow. To treat a cold, the Seals suggest making a drink using a tablespoon of rose hip vinegar in a mug of hot water, sweetened to taste with honey.
Drying for tea
To dry rose hips for a tea, spread them out on a clean surface until the skins begin to shrivel. Then split the hips and take out the seeds and all the hairs that cover the seeds. Once they are cleaned, leave the hips to dry completely before storing in the freezer. When you want a cup of vitamin rich tea, add 4 to 8 hips to a mug of hot water and enjoy.
Just a note, if you don’t have any rose hips on your roses, perhaps you pruned the rose blossoms as they began to fade, a common practice that produces more flowers during the growing season. If the spent flowers are left to ripen, rose hips will form on the tips of the stems.