Roses remind me of my grandmother.
She was especially talented with tea roses. During the summer, she never visited without bringing a beautiful bloom with her. For the two weeks that I pick roses each year she is very present in my mind.
As I use plants for my family’s health I find that I take a lot of things for granted. I am very accustomed to using roses in my food, but that’s not the case with many of my customers. Visitors to our farmer’s market booth often wonder why they would eat roses, as if the only use for them is found in a vase on the family table.
Roses have a long history of use in food and medicine. In most of the literature, it is the dog rose, Rosa canina, that was used most often. Today we also use Rosa rugosa in many preparations. Sadly, my grandmother’s tea rose is too altered to have much in the way of medicinal value. All parts of the rose have been used at different times in history. It is the petal and the hip which you will encounter most frequently in food and medicine.
All About Rose Hips
These fruits are just about ready to be harvested here on the farm. Roses are in the apple family, so their fruits resemble small fleshy apples. Just like apples, they are best after a few cold nights or even a light frost. The cold sets the sweetness. Rose hips are a bit of a bear to prepare for eating as they seem to have a million seeds inside, but they are worth the trouble.
I like to use dried rose hips in any tea I make for pregnant clients. They are very high in Vitamin C, but more importantly, they are also high in bioflavonoids. This combination is particularly helpful in strengthening the walls of our blood vessels, protecting against infection, improving liver function, decreasing blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Most importantly, during pregnancy adding rose hips to food daily helps to support a healthy placenta.
The high vitamin content of rose hips lends credibility to a long history of the use of the rose plant in addressing the health of the eye. In the case of vision, cataracts and inflammation, rose hip or petal tea has been used topically as a wash to improve capillary health in all parts of the eye. (Find dried rose hips here.)
Both the hips and the petals of rose are anti-inflammatory because of their astringency. The petals are sweet and often do more for our emotional wellbeing. They are very effective for conditions of anxiety. The hips are tart in a tea, but not unpleasant.
If you grow Rosa rugosa and have noticed the shiny, red flesh of the rose hip, it’s high time you thought of harvesting these helpful fruits. There are so many ways to add them into your food! Try a warm tea for a sore throat, or make them into a syrup. This syrup can be used when a boost of immunity is needed, or when you want a topping for ice cream or pancakes that is just a bit different.
Rose Hips Syrup
- 1 quart of water
- 1 pound of rose hips (Find dried rose hips here.)
- 8 ounces of evaporated cane juice
- Chop up the rose hips by hand or in a blender. (If you use a blender add a bit of water to get it to do a rough chop easily).
- Bring approximately 3 cups of water to a boil and immediately after you have chopped the rose hips, transfer them into the boiling water.
- Bring the water back to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover and allow the pan to sit for 15 minutes.
- Strain the whole mixture through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Reserve the liquid.
- Add the rose hip pulp back to your saucepan and just cover it with the remaining water (get it boiling beforehand), add more if needed. Bring the water back to a boil again.
- Allow it to sit for 15 minutes and repeat the process. This can be done 2-3 times depending on the color and consistency of what you are getting.
- Put all the rose hip “tea” you’ve made so far together into a pan. Add the sugar and adjust to taste. Remember that the more sugar you add, the better the syrup will keep, but you don’t need to overdo it.
- Bring the syrup to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Bottle it in sterilized glass jars. Small is better. These do not keep well once they’ve been opened, though you may add a few drops of an alcohol like brandy to help with that.
Have you ever done anything with rose hips?
Share your experience in the comments section below!