Every year around this time, as the seasons change and the kids go back to school, the family gets colds. This year I am going to try something different, be proactive and give us all vitamin C boosts with rose hip drinks.
The hips I used came from Rosa rugosa, also known as hedge rose or dog rose. It is a deciduous flowering shrub that grows wild in Rhode Island and is common on beaches because of its salt tolerance. The plant has flowers in varying shades of white, pink and fuchsia and very large hips.
Rose hips contain vitamins A, D and E and are a known remedy for bladder infections and for easing headaches and dizziness, but I am interested in their vitamin C content. Rose hips contain ten times the vitamin C of oranges!
Scandinavia has long used rose hips in their cooking, making a traditional rose hip soup. During World War II, the UK started a national campaign to collect rose hips after citrus fruit could no longer be imported. Volunteers were paid one and a half pennies per pound and many school children answered the call, foraging 1,500 tons in 1942. The hips were turned into National Rose Hip Syrup and distributed to families with children over five years old or invalids (children under five received government orange juice).
For my project I picked hips, which form once the flower is spent, that were plump but not wrinkled or mushy. Late summer or early fall is the time for harvesting in Rhode Island. Roses are related to apples and the hips have a taste not unlike crab apples. Harvest after a frost and they become sweeter.
You can use rose hips whole and fresh but I decided to dry them, for reasons you’ll see in a moment. This rose is extremely prickly, so wear gloves when picking!
Top and tail the hips, then wash them thoroughly and dry.
Cut the hip in half. Inside you will see lots of seeds and many tiny hairs. It is really important to remove all the hairs as they are very itchy and can cause irritation of the throat and the digestive system (Native Americans refer to “itchy bottom disease.” I’ll leave that to your imagination.). If you can, remove the insides and leave the pulp.
Wash and dry the hips again, then dry in a food dehydrator. Store in a cool dry place.
To make a vitamin C drink, add one tablespoon of dried hips to one cup of boiling water in a non- reactive pan. Simmer for five minutes or steep for ten. Strain the liquid. Rose hip decoction is an acquired taste. To drink hot, try sweetening with honey; to drink cold, mix with apple juice. Peppermint leaves are a nice addition.
I would not recommend making a jam from rose hips because of the hairs, but you can make a jelly or syrup by boiling whole, fresh hips then straining the juice through a jelly bag. The liquid can then be turned into a syrup or jelly.
I’m interested to see the results in my house – will the tea be potent enough to keep the sniffles away? Will my teenagers be too hip to try the hips? I’ll let you know.
See you in the garden,
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