Master Gardener Column
Herb of the Month: Rose Hips
Submitted by Arlene Hamilton
The rose is considered the queen of the flower garden, a symbol of love and beauty for more than 3,000 years. Its petals have been used in potpourri and perfume, as well as candies, syrups, medicines and cosmetics. The rose hip, or rose haw, is the fruit of the rose plant that forms below the flower and ripens to a shiny, hard, red-to-orange seed container. Rose hips begin to form in spring, and ripen in late summer through autumn. Hips are full of seeds, but the larger ones also contain pulp, which is the part used for food and medicine.
Rose hips are a superb source of vitamin C; they contain twenty times as much vitamin C as an orange of the same volume. Rose hips are used for herbal tea, jams, jellies, syrups, soups, beverages, pies, breads, wines, and marmalades. Hips are ready to pick as soon as they have reached their mature color. However, they become sweeter after a light frost helps convert some of the starches to sugar. They are not edible if allowed to freeze solid. Avoid rose hips that have been sprayed with pesticides or contaminated with toxins such as automobile exhaust.
To preserve their vitamin C content, keep rose hips cool after picking and process them as soon as possible, either by stewing, drying, or freezing. Wash the hips and cut off the stems and blossoms. Cook them, covered, in a nonreactive pot over low heat for 15 minutes. Steep in the covered pot for 24 hours; then strain. Use the strained juice immediately or freeze for as long as a year. You can also freeze fresh hips in plastic containers after washing and removing stems.
To dry large rose hips: wash hips, remove the blossom and stem ends, cut in half, remove the seeds, spread on a tray and dry in an oven or dehydrator set at 110 degrees until brittle. To dry small hips, leave whole or slice without removing seeds. When thoroughly dry, store in airtight jars in a dark pantry or cupboard.
When you are ready to use the dried hips cover them with water and simmer until soft, at least fifteen minutes. Press the pulp through a food mill. When using simmered and seeded hips for jams and jellies, measure the proper amount after simmering, but before seeding.
Fresh Rose Hip Jelly
Prep Time: 15 min/Cook Time: 10 min
Total Time: 25 minutes
4 quarts ripe rose hips
2 quarts water
1 package pectin
5 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Simmer rose hips in water until soft. Crush to mash, and strain through a jelly bag. This should make about 4 cups of juice. Add sugar and lemon juice stirring until mixture comes to a hard boil. Stir in pectin all at once. Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove jelly from heat and skim off foam with spoon. Pour jelly into hot sterilized jars.
Yield: about 5 cups
Caution: When using rose hips for cooking you should remove all the seeds or strain through a jelly bag. They are covered with fine hairs that can irritate the digestive system.