The cold season has begun. I'm not talking cold as in the weather, yes that obviously has begun. I'm talking as in our health this season. We need to keep our immune systems going strong this cold & flu season. One very excellent source of vitamin C could be growing right in our own backyards. It's just waiting to be used as a free source of not only vitamin C but vitamins A and B along with many other antioxidants to boost our immune system. Rose hips! They, have been used for thousand of years to treat various ailments and have always been high in vitamin C. A handful of hips has more vitamin C than 50 oranges. Native Americans used wild rose hips as an important source of vitamins during the winter months when vitamin-rich plants were hard to come by. In World War II, citrus fruit sources were low do to German submarines sinking commercial ships carrying citrus. In England during this time, the government asked people to collect them for their nutritional value. The hips were added to many of their teas, medicinal syrups and foods to help them stay healthier.
What is a rose hip, you ask? A rose hip or haw is the fruit of the rose, containing the seeds. It's what develops after the flowers have fallen off. The seeds are surrounded by tiny hairs which should be removed before eating in most recipes.
The best time to collect rose hips is when they have turned from green to orange to red depending on the variety. They should be soft but not shriveled. We’ve been surprised with a few early frosts this year. The first was in September for some of us. Frost will not hurt the rose hips although they may start falling off earlier. They actually taste better or sweeter after a frost. An important note to mention is to make sure these are organic hips and have not not been sprayed with any type of chemical control. Rugosa, hardy or wild roses have the most abundant hips. You could use hybrids however, many hybrids produce very little if any hips.
There are a few different ways to preserve them. They can be dried for teas, potpourris, made into oils for cosmetics, purees are used in jams, jellies and many other food items.
Ways to dry them
Make sure you pick the best looking hips, rinse them well and pat dry. They are very easy to dry using these methods.
1.Cut the hips in half and scrape out the seeds. Lay them on a baking sheet, set the oven at 140*. Bake them until they turn leathery. Check often.
2.Use cardboard or wax paper lay the hips out in a single layer. Simply let them dry in a well ventilated dark area for 2-4 weeks
3.You may also use a food dehydrator. Hips may be dried whole or can be cut in half to remove the seeds first just like oven drying.
If you didn't remove the seeds before drying remove them now by crushing the rose hips and using a small amount at a time, place in a sieve, shake to remove the hairs. Most of the hairs should fall through, the rest can easily be hand picked out. The hairs really must be removed. They taste awful and have been said to be used to create itching powders.
Hips dried with any of these methods would be good used in tea, added to cookie dough, or even sprinkled on your favorite cereal. Note: Always steep rose hips as an infusion. Boiling rose hips in water will destroy some or all of the vitamin C content.
Store in containers, you can either freeze or refrigerate too. Don't store or simmer rose hips in metal or aluminum containers, as they affect the favor and discolor the tea. Use stainless steel or glass.
Making Rose Hip Oil
A crock pot is a wonderful container to use when making the oil. The reason being that the mixture will need to cook on a low heat for at least eight hours. This is a very easy way to make rose oil. Combine two cups of oil (olive or canola) with one cup of rose hips. When your mixture is done cooking you must strain out all particles using a cheesecloth. I like to use dark colored glass bottles for storing. Use the oils when making bath salts, sachets or potpourris.
Benefits of Rose Hip Tea
Rose Hip Tea can help your the immune system by preventing and helping to relief chest infections and coughs. Studies have even shown that rose hips can help prevent the development of kidney stones and prevent diarrhea, it can also help with gout and rheumatic conditions.
Always consult your physician or health practitioner about drinking rose hip tea if you're taking any prescription medications, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Studies have shown rose hips can alter the affects of birth control pills, increase the body's absorption of dietary iron, interfere with blood-thinning drugs, and skew glucose tests.