Growing roses on your homestead can yield not only beautiful blooms but also a valuable resource – rose hips. These small fruit pods are not only edible but also have medicinal uses. In this guide, we'll explore how to harvest rose hips, which rose varieties are best for hips, and how to process them for food and medicinal purposes.
Understanding Rose Hips
Rose hips are the fruit or seed pods that form on rose plants after the petals fall. While they are related to apples, they contain more seeds and less flesh. Some modern hybrids prioritize flower production over hips, but certain rose varieties are renowned for their sizable and flavorful hips.
Best Rose Varieties for Hips
For the best rose hips, consider planting rugosa roses, known for their large hips. Wild roses, heirloom varieties, and the dog rose (rosa canina) are also excellent choices. These roses tend to produce sizable hips suitable for culinary and medicinal uses. Ensure that the roses have not been treated with pesticides if you plan to use the hips.
When to Harvest Rose Hips
The ideal time for harvesting rose hips is in the fall, after a light frost. Frost enhances the sweetness of the hips, but be cautious not to wait until a hard frost, as it can cause spoilage. Rose hips can vary in color, with some turning dark red and others remaining orange; the timing of your harvest may depend on the specific plant.
Harvesting Rose Hips
Harvesting rose hips is a relatively simple task. You can pluck or snip the hips from the plant, depending on the stem's sturdiness. If the stems become brittle later in the season, they may snap off easily.
Processing and Drying
Rose hips have fine hairs around the seeds that can cause irritation when consumed. To prepare them for use, you can choose to either keep the hips whole or clean them by removing the seeds and hairs.
Cleaning the hips can be time-consuming, but it's worth the effort to avoid irritation. Cut or pull off the stem and bud ends, then cut the rose hip in half. Use a small measuring spoon to scoop out the seeds and hairs. Alternatively, you can cook the hips, mash them, and strain them to create puree or jelly.
Drying Rose Hips for Tea
To prepare dried rose hips for tea, remove the stems and buds. If the hips are small, you can keep them intact, but for larger hips, slice them open and remove the seeds. Dry the hips in a dehydrator at around 110°F (33°C) until completely dry. Store them in a paper bag for a week to allow them to dry evenly. Afterward, run the dried hips through a food processor to remove any remaining hairs.
Store the dried hips in a sealed container in a cool, dark place, and use them within a year for the best quality. Alternatively, you can use whole, dried hips for tea, which may infuse more quickly.
Benefits of Rose Hips
Rose hips are a rich source of vitamin C, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. These compounds offer various health benefits, and rose hips have been historically used to treat skin disorders, diarrhea, inflammation, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer. The specific phytochemicals and bioactive compounds can vary depending on the rose species and growing conditions.
Harvesting and using rose hips from your homestead roses can provide you with a valuable natural resource. Whether you use them for culinary purposes or medicinal applications, rose hips offer a host of benefits and add another dimension to your homestead's bounty.