The only limit to your garden is your imagination. You can cultivate both beauty and function all in one space. A plant that can be grown in most gardens or flowerbeds, that adds stunning beauty and bears beneficial fruit, is the rose. While we don’t typically think of this as a fruit bearing plant, it indeed is. The beautiful rose produces the rose hip fruits, aka rose haw or rose hep. Hips are an ancient fruit that was first cultivated in ancient Persia that over time worked its way to Rome and then to Greece.
Did I promise you a rose garden?
To add a little flower power to your garden, pick rose varieties that you know grow well in your region. You can even look for native species to grow. For more information of benefits of growing natives, click here: https://permaculturenews.org/2015/09/04/3-benefits-of-maintaining-an-urban-native-plant-food-and-medicine-forest/. All roses have the ability to produce rose hips as long as they have the ability to be pollinated. Some varieties that’re known to produce well are Rosa canina, Rosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’, Rosa ‘Madame Grégoire Staechelin’, Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’, Rosa setipoda, and Rosa spinosissima. These and other species will attract wildlife to your yard that, like us, also enjoys the tart and tangy apple-like taste of the hips. hips.
Once you find a variety of rose that works well in your area, it’s time to plant. Roses should be planted in early spring or late fall when they are dormant. Before planting bare root roses give them a good soaking overnight. When roses are ready to be planted, put them in a location that receives full sun for 6+ hours a day and has well drained, nutrient rich soil. As you dig holes for each rose bush, allow enough room for all the roots to comfortably fit into the hole and are spaced 2-3’ away from the next rosebush.
To establish your roses, give them 1-2” of water each week. Don’t overhead water roses, as this can increase the likelihood of fungal diseases. Stop pruning roses by the beginning of the last month of summer. As the petals come off, what are left will be the rose hips. How the hips show up on your roses is species dependent. The hips may be round to slightly elongated, bright red to pink or orange, and will be grouped as a single fruit or in clusters.
As summer becomes fall, this will be the time to harvest your fruit. You may want to allow your rose hips to experience one frost to increase sweetness, but just be careful to as they may end up with brown spotting. To pick the fruit just give a slight twist and they should come off easily. Remove any sepals that are on the hips.
If you are not planning on using your rose hips right away, you can dry them. To do this, place the newly picked whole fruit, with sepals removed, in a paper bag. Place the bag in a dry room with sufficient airflow and out of direct sunlight for up to 2 weeks. Shake the bag every day and check to see how dry they are. You may deseed the fruit before drying if you don’t want the seeds to remain. Once dry place in a glass jar and store. You can grind the dried hips with a spice or coffee grinder to make a powder for use in teas, etc.
If you choose to consume rose hips you’ll be getting 119 mg dose (199% DV) of vitamin C. Beyond being an excellent source of vitamin C, they’re also an excellent source of vitamin A and manganese. Rose hips are good sources of vitamins E (Alpha Tocopherol), K-1 and calcium and magnesium. One ounce of rose hips has 45 calories, no fat or protein, and 11 grams of carbohydrates (7 grams of which is dietary fiber). Homegrown hips have more nutritional content than supplements because much of the vitamin C is destroyed during processing and declines during storage. Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually more healthful overall and we should aim to consume them that way. For more information on why you should eat more fruits and vegetables click here: https://permaculturenews.org/2016/12/06/americans-not-consuming-enough-fruits-vegetables/
Rose hips have many beneficial uses including the treatment of stomach ailments, diarrhea, constipation, urinary tract problems, edema, and gout, reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol, increasing immune function, regulating blood sugar, supporting collagen formation, and improving overall skin condition. To reap these benefits you can eat the hips raw, straight from the rose. Do be careful though, as rose hip seeds can be irritating to some individuals’ GI tract. To avoid this, remove the seeds before eating or using in recipes. You can cut open the hips and scoop out the seeds before using. This is a bit tedious, but once you get into the groove of it, it becomes a fairly smooth process.
Other ways to enjoy rose hips include using them in jams, relishes, sauces, syrups, and teas. You can even use rose hips as part of your beauty regiment by making them into oils. Below are the methods for making Rose Hip Oil (recipe from Lulastic and the hippyshake) and Rose Hip Tea (recipe from Wild Foods & Medicines).
Rose Hip Oil
Recipe Credit: Lulastic and the hippyshake at lulastic.co.uk
Rose hips (the more you use, the more rose-y and nutrient packed it will be)
Oil (choose an oil that works well with your skin type and has a scent you enjoy. Almond oil is a good choice for this recipe)
Using clean glass jars, fill them approximately 1/3 full of rose hips
Top with oil, leaving a bit of room at the top
Place filled jars into a warmer. This can be a yogurt maker, slow cooker, warm water bath, etc.
Let oil mixture warm (not boil**) for 12 hours
Strain the oil through a sieve covered with a piece of cheesecloth
Place the strained oil in clean glass jars* and store*.
*When storing Rose Hip Oil, keep oil in dark jars or stored in a dark location. The Rose Hip Oil is sensitive to light and can degrade if exposed.
Rose Mint Tea
Recipe Credit: Wild foods & Medicines
1 heaping teaspoon of dried, ground rose hips
3-4 rose petals
3-4 mint leaves
8 oz hot water**
Place hips, petals, and mint in a tea infuser and steep in water for 20 minutes. Add more or less of any ingredient to increase or reduce flavor. Sip and enjoy!
**Note that when rose hips are boiled they lose much of their vitamin C content. By only warming or simmering them, this reduces the degradation that can occur.
***When cooking with, or storing rose hips, don’t use reactive pans and containers, as this discolors and destroys vitamin content.
A Bed of Roses
While every rose may have its thorns, it also has its fruit. So planting these lovelies in your garden and around your home is something worth considering. For the love of beauty or fruit, or both, taking the time to plant (and smell) the roses will allow you to create the garden of your imagination.
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Wikimedia Commons. July 29, 2015. Wikimedia.org. File:Rosa rubiginosa hips.jpg. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosa_rubiginosa_hips.jpg
Wikimedia Commons. August 9, 2009. Wikimedia.org. Category:Rosa setipoda. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Rosa_setipoda#/media/File:Rosa_hemsleyana.JPG
Wildfoodsandmedicines.com. Wild Foods & Medicines. Rosehips. https://wildfoodsandmedicines.com/rosehips/