Ever seen a Rose hip? That’s that big seed pod that forms on rose canes after it blossoms. Isn’t Mother Nature so marvelous – to make such beautiful and delicious things like Rosehips? One of my favorite ways to use rose hips is to brew them into tea. My mom made tea and jam of the hips and I remember endless days of cutting hips in half and then removing seeds and hairs. That brings back childhood memories!
The rose hip plant is native to the Andes region of South America, particularly in Peru and Chile; the rose hip is a wild rose bush which grows to a height of eight feet. The bush has white and pink flowers with fruits of red berry – called rose hips. The presence of arytenoids gives the rose hips their bright red color. Rose hip oil, also known as rose hip seed oil, is extracted from the seeds of the rose hip plant, the Rosa species; rose hip oil has historically been used by South American native people but is now common in many cosmetic aromatherapy blends. Rosehips are extremely rich in vitamin C, some vitamin A and B, essential fatty acids and antioxidant falconoid, particularly high in Vitamin C. As you may know, not all rose plants bear hips. These rounds to oval or even urn-shaped berries are in fact the fruit of fertile rose flowers. And not all rose flowers are fertile anymore, thanks to mankind’s tampering with their breeding for hundreds of years. In fact, the hugely double roses that most of us think of when we visualize this favorite flower have traded in their sexual organs for extra petals. Roses are propagated from hips by removing the seeds from the aril (the outer coating) and sowing just beneath the surface of the soil. Placed in a cold frame or a greenhouse, the seeds take at least three months to germinate.
The flavor is described as fruity and spicy, much like the cranberry. Harvest the fruits after the first frost when they become fully-colored, but not overripe. They should yield to gentle pressure but not be soft or wrinkly. Most recipes advise removing the irritating hairy seeds before processing the fruit. When cooking with rose hips, do not use any metal pans or utensils other than stainless steel or risk discoloration of the fruit and loss of its precious vitamin C stores. Rose hip oil should not be confused with the different types of rose oil, including rose essential oil; rose hip oil carrier oil which can also be used on its own in massage or combined with essential oils. In World War II, the people of England gathered wild-grown rose hips and made Vitamin C syrup for children. This was because German submarines were sinking many commercial ships: citrus fruits from the tropics were very difficult to import. Throughout Patagonia, it’s not hard to find Rosa Mosqueta; you can find it as artisanal jams and liquors in various gourmet or touristy shops. A good bakery may fill alfajores (buttery and crumbly Argentine cookie) with the rosy stuff as an alternative to dulce de leche. Restaurants may offer tasty deserts drizzled with Rosa Mosqueta syrup or perhaps as a sweet-sour sauce to dress a succulent portion of lamb or pork. Experiment with your own ideas for using roses in recipes.
500 g ripe rose hips, stray leaves, stems and flowers removed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 kg crab or cooking apples, roughly chopped, including cores, pips, skin
Wash and drain the rose hips. Chop roughly and put into a preserving pan with the lemon juice, apples and enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until soft. Mash thoroughly to extract as much juice as possible. Strain through a jelly bag or muslin-lined nylon sieve, set over a large bowl. Do not press the fruit or squeeze the bag as this will make the jelly cloudy. Leave until the dripping stops. This may take several hours or even overnight.
Next, measure the liquid and return it to the pan along with 450 g (1 lb) sugar for each pint (600 ml) of liquid. Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 5–10 minutes. Test your jam for a set — setting point is 105C (220F). If necessary, boil for a further minute then test again. Continue testing at one-minute intervals, as necessary, until the jelly has reached setting point. Remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum and allow to cool briefly. Carefully pour into hot, sterilised jars. Seal the jars and allow the jelly to cool completely before labelling and storing.
Note: Anyone using rose hips for cooking should remove all the seeds. They are covered with sliver-hairs that, when ingested, irritate the digestive system and cause what the aboriginal people call “itchy bottom disease.”