When people think of love, the image of a red rose often comes to mind. In fact, artists and writers have gravitated to the image of the rose so much over the centuries that it has become a cliché. And yet, we still love them. We love to give them to show our love for another, and many of us still love the plants themselves for their beauty and seemingly endless variety.
Over the past 2500 years, countless gardeners and horticulturalists have succeeded at breeding thousands of colorful and exotic-looking rose cultivars. With the commercialization of flowers as gifts, roses quickly became the centerpiece of an ever-expanding global industry (flower sales in the US alone top 30 billion dollars annually.) And yet, how often do you hear about the fruit of these plants – the rose hip? Once the beautiful flowers are gone, the little red fruits left behind offer their own gifts to anyone willing to do a bit of work.
Every September, I harvest the bulk of the hips from my rose bushes. Given the tangle of branches that have developed over the past few years from lack of pruning, the harvesting process can be somewhat painful. When I am finished, my arms are sometimes marked with small scratches – but at the same time, my bag is also filled with nutritious, medicinal rose hips!
Rose hips are the tasty end-point fruits that follow flowering. They’re so loaded with vitamin C that they outrank oranges by a two-to-one margin. They also contain vitamin A, calcium, iron and other beneficial minerals. Given that September is the beginning of the slide into cold and flu season, rose hips are a great immune-system tonic to have on hand.
Rose hips can also be added to your favorite tea mixture, not only for immune system support, but also for flavoring – especially with dull or bitter herbal blends. The fruit acids and pectin content in rose hips support the kidneys, and their antioxidant content supports the heart and general tissue health.
Harvest rose hips that are orange or bright red. If you live in colder locales, they get sweeter if left on the plant until after the first frost. If you opt to wait, though, make sure you pick them very soon after because they tend to go brown rather quickly.
I often tell people that when I pick nettle and it stings me, it’s the plant teaching me and testing my willingness to be in close relationship with it. The same can be said of rose hips. Even if you prune your rose bushes well, it’s difficult to avoid getting spiked altogether. Good gloves will prevent most problems, but it’s also good to be open to experiencing working with the whole plant, thorns and all.
May you be blessed with rose hips this autumn!
Rose hips from morgueFile