Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Plant at a Time: Rosehips (Rosa spp)

I know it's a little early to talk about rosehips but since I just strained and bottled my rosehip honegar...

Rosehips are one of Nature's gems: they're both edible and medicinal.
The hips are rich in vitamins B1, B2, C, E and K as well as beta-carotene, flavonoids, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sulfur, zinc, polyphenols, tannin, malic acid, pectin and vanillin.
Their properties are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antiviral, astrigent, blood tonic, cardioprotective, digestive, mild diuretic, emmenagogue, kidney tonic, laxative, nutritive, stimulant and tonic.

Rosehips are rich in flavonoids that help strenghten the capillaries of the body. They also improve the body's assimilation of vitamin C. Rosehips have a tart, fruity, sour and sweet flavor. They're often combined with hibiscus in teas. Rosehips can be prepared as herbal tea/infusion, herbal vinegars & honegars, tinctures and jams.

There are more than 10,000 species of roses worldwide. The color and shape of the hips vary from one species to another. When harvesting rosehips, you may either choose wild roses (rosa canina, rosa nutkana...etc) or heirloom/medicinal roses (rosa gallica, rosa damascena, rosa centifolia...etc). Modern and hybrid varieties are not usually recommended. Also make sure that they grow in a pesticide-free area. You can harvest the hips in the fall and the winter, I read that they taste even better after the first frost (it probably concentrates the sugars inside the plant).

How to harvest rosehips? Well, first you want to find some nice red plump hips. The bigger the better, because once you remove the seeds from small ones, there's not much left. So collect your hips at their prime then wash them well and remove stems and dried sepals from the ends. The seeds inside are covered with fine, silvery hairs which can cause digestive problems if ingested, so it's better to cut the hips in half and scrape them clean (rinse if necessary).

If you want to use them right away, you can prepare a rosehip tea by crushing the fruits and steeping them for15-20 minutes in boiling water. Strain and sweeten with honey if you wish. You can also use the fresh fruits in jams (1 part fruit to 1/2 -1 part sugar, honey and/or maple syrup...You may need to add some water though, and a little splash of brandy to preserve your jam). If you're familiar with herbal preparations, you can also tincture them. A little extra vitamin C is always useful in the winter. Otherwise you can dry the fruits for later use. Turn your oven on 150F, place your rosehips on a dish inside the oven and let the oven's door slightly open. It may take an hour or so for the hips to dry, it's good to check them from time to time.

You can also buy organic dried rosehips from Jean's Greens, Living Earth Herbs or Mountain Rose Herbs (see my links).

Rosehips can be used medicinally to treat bruising, colds, cough, diarrhea, exhaustion, flu, gingivitis, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, urinary tract infections...and more. Consult your physician along with an herbalist to make the right choices regarding your health.

If you like harvesting wild plants for foods, tea and medicine, I can recommend "Drink in the Wild - Teas, Cordials, Jams and More" by Hilary Stewart

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