bushes and bushes full of hips along the Burke Gilman trail
Small sunset colored globes brighten up the desolate fall landscape every year. Rose hips are the fruit of the rose bush that forms after the blossom dies away. They ripen in fall turning vibrant red to orange colors, and are best harvested after a frost, when slightly soft and wrinkly. Like many other fruits and vegetables of the autumn season, such as parsnips, grapes, and brussel sprouts, cold temperatures help convert their starches to sugars. The conversion is a survival mechanism, sugars help keep the plants from freezing. Rose hips will persist on bushes through out the cold months and if you happen to get lost in the woods they can be eaten as a winter survival food.
The texture and taste of fresh rosehips are moist, bright, and pasty, reminiscent to overripe apples and tangy cranberries to which roses are related. Rose hips are one of the highest plant sources for vitamin C and also contain significant amounts of vitamin D and E, antioxidants, and pectin.
Wild rose bushes grow like weeds all over the city and country, and are easy to find cultivated in many home gardens. Avoid plants in decorative gardens that have been sprayed with pesticides. Rose hips contain many hairy seeds; the fine hairs are said to cause mild intestinal irritation. There are conflicting accounts, but the seeds seem to be best removed unless final preparation is strained through cheesecloth or very fine sieve, though many recipes do not do this. Removing seeds can be a daunting task if your fruits are very ripe. A good way to avoid this hardship is to partially dry fruits for a few days or so and then remove seeds when flesh is firmer.
Tea made with fresh or dried rose hips is one of the most common ways to enjoy this fruit but there are many interesting traditional preparations. Try making a simple rose hip syrup (one more recipe here) for mixed drinks, or as a vitamin C elixir. In Sweden rose hip soup with sour cream or yogurt is a mainstay. You can even buy rose hip soup dry mixes there. Two different recipes for soup are here and here. Combine apples and rosehips for jam, jelly, or fruit leather. Dry sweet large pieces and use as a snack or raisin substitute. I am thinking about making rose hip syrup with honey, dried rose petals to increase the floral notes, and a touch of ginger. I will also dry a bunch to add to my cold weather tea mix with nettles, mint, and elderberries.