Rosehips are rich in Vitamin C and have been cherished by many cultures for their medicinal properties.
(Image source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14517506)
Edmonton's river valleys and parks are blessed with lots of wild rose bushes. I take joy in going into the valleys in the fall to collect rosehips.
What are rosehips? Seen here, they are the bulb of the rosebud essentially. They have been used for centuries by aboriginal populations for this reason. It's interesting to note that During World War II, there was a public campaign started by registered dietitian, Claire Loewenfeld who was working for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children encouraged people to collect wild rose hips and make a rose hip syrup for children (2). The topic even made it into the British Medical Journal (BMJ)! (1). Citrus fruits imported during this period came on ships and like many other ships with various goods heading to Britain, they were a target, resulting in a shortage of imported citrus fruits during the war. Rosehips have been used for medicinal and therapeutic properties for centuries. Rosehips contain more vitamin C than many citrus fruits, which is great to know for wild foraging and for those wanting to live local. No need to buy citrus fruits to get your vitamin C, you have a plentiful source in your backyard.
How to collect & preserve rosehips:
1) Collect rosehips in the fall and throughout the winter if you wish. Look for bright red ones. They can be light to dark red. Sometimes rosehip can get fungus' or have bug infestations, so look for healthy looking ones without any breaks in the flesh, such as shown above. They can range in size to small ones shown below or as large as cherry tomato depending on the species. Roses grow well on the sides of hills facing south, but really can grow anywhere as long as they are in the sun for a few hours each day. One rule of thumb when harvesting is leave some rosehips on the bush. In other words, don't pick it clean. This serves 2 purposes. One, it prevents the plant from going into shock and will ensure it produces roses the following year, and two, it leaves some wild food for our winter animals such as birds which eat them. If you are collecting rosehips for making jelly, you will be using fresh rather than dried rosehips. Here is a recipe for Rosehip Jelly to try.
2) After collecting the hips, dehydrate them using a dehydrator or you can dry them in the sun. At this time of year, I would suggest using a dehydrator as our daylight hours are getting less and less. You can dry them whole or split them in half and dry them. For my process, I left them whole at this stage. You can opt to leave the herbs whole at this stage and place them into a jar.
3) Use them for tea, making herbal infused oils, or add a handful to soups and stews (and remove before eating) for their vitamin C and mineral content.
Now is the perfect time to go harvesting rosehips in the river valley and fields around Edmonton. Happy foraging!
References: 1) Loewenfeld, C. Vitamin C from Rosehips. Br Med J. 1941 June 28; 1(4199): 988–989. 2) Loewenfeld, C. 1942(?). Herb Gardening: How and Why to Grow Herbs. (book)