We talk a great deal about local food on the Fresh Sheet and there is really nothing more local than foraging for indigenous foods. Rose hips can be found all over the Lower Mainland right now; I picked mine on the seawall at South East False Creek. Rose hips are the seed pod of the rose plant; after the rose blooms, the hip ripens and disperses its seeds…unless you pick it and eat it first, of course. Rich in vitamin C, rose hip syrup was a common fixture of the European family pharmacy during the war, when imported citrus was hard to come by.
When enjoying rose hips for their vitamin C, it is best to eat them fresh off the plant. Vitamin C is very delicate and degrades quickly with storage. Take care to avoid the seeds and fine hairs inside the hip; those pesky hairs can actually be used for itching powder! Talk about an uncomfortable meal.
Traditionally, rose hips have been used to treat many ailments from gout and arthritis to diarrhea and gallstones. Rose hips are also used as a stomach tonic and to prevent stomach irritation and ulcers. While there is not a great deal of research to definitively support these uses, we understand some of the key components of rose hips. Pectin, a soluble fibre found in rose hips (and apples, part of the same plant family), may explain the use of rose hips for diarrhea as soluble fibre forms a gel that helps slow things down in the intestine. The malic acid in rose hips contribute to diuretic properties. Most impressive though is the vitamin C content of fresh rosehips: 100 grams of fruit may contain over 1,000mg of vitamin C.
There are many ways to prepare rose hips for use. Two of the most common are tea from the dried fruit and syrup. I am feeling a bit lazy right now so I am just going to dry my small harvest for tea.
Rose Hip Tea
Wash, trim and halve your rose hips. Remove the seeds and hairs and then spread the rose hips to dry on a drying screen or parchment in a dark, cool place. A closet works well. When the hips are fully dry, store in a glass jar. You could also dry rose hips in your dehydrator.
To make tea, pour boiling water over a tablespoon of dried rose hips and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.
An important note…eating rose hips in reasonable amounts is safe. Taking large amounts of any food, especially medicinal foods, can have side effects. Most notably, very large doses of vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal distress. Please consult your health professional prior to taking any herbal preparations or before self-administering large doses of any medicinal food.