A homestead located at 55th latitude is probably not considered to be a good place for to grow tomatoes. We do own a few tomato plants, carefully snuggled up against the south wall of our brick-built cottage, and we are cherishing every single tomato, having managed to change color from green to somewhat reddish.
Well, the poor tomato-growing conditions actually don’t matter, because, instead of tomatoes, we successfully cultivate Rosa rugosa, also known as the “Salt Spray Rose,” one of the most frost- and sea salt-tolerant wild roses.
Rosa rugosa is not only present on our property, but also growing wild all over the district. It starts to blossom early, at the beginning of June, and from August, it bears tons of plum-sized, bright red hips, with a thick layer of soft sweetish-sour flesh covering a large cavity filled with seeds. Not only their large size and unusual tenderness remind me of tomatoes, but also the taste of the flesh does, especially when cooked.
So why not use them instead of tomatoes? In fact, we do!
Our preserved spaghetti sauce is partly made from Rosa rugosa hips, and we also prepare a kind of bruschetta-style spread from the raw flesh now and again. Of course, some of the hips end up as sweet rose hip spread or jelly as well.
Spaghetti sauce. Before one can start preparing sauce or spread, flesh must be separated from seeds. For spaghetti sauce, whole hips can be boiled in water for about 5 minutes to soften. Once cooled, they are easily processed through a food mill, leaving a soft pulp for further use. You will get about 1 pound of pulp from processing 3 pounds of whole hips.
The easiest way of preparing spaghetti sauce from the pulp is to just season it with salt, pepper, garlic, and all kinds of Mediterranean herbs (thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, laurel, and basil) add a drop of olive oil and heat up. Tasting it, you might find it too sour. To manage its acidity, small amounts of baking soda can be added, until it has your preferred taste.
What’s also missing is the slightly bitter “nightshady” taste of real tomatoes. So, on our homestead, we are adding about 1/3 of real tomato pulp (from the supermarket) to it. The sauce is easily made in bulk and can be canned in jars or stored in the freezer. It can be used as basic sauce for to prepare spaghetti Bolognese as well as for making pizza.
Bruschetta spread. It’s a bit less comfortable to prepare hips for the raw spread. Every rose hip has to be cut into half and its seeds removed using a teaspoon. Because the seed cavity also contains some hairy matter, which causes a bad itch, rubber gloves should be worn doing this.
The raw spread doesn’t keep fresh all that long and should be prepared the day it’s intended to be used. To make it, the rugosa hip flesh should be getting diced finely. Per cup of flesh, about ¼ cup of finely chopped onions (feel free to add more!) should be added, along with a mashed clove of garlic.
Stir olive oil into the blend until its “spreadbility” is the way you like it most (you may also use a blender if you prefer it being a soft paste). Then season with salt, pepper, and fresh Genovese basil or lemon thyme. Add some chopped fresh chilly if you like.
Salt Spray Rose is easily cultivated in cold temperate and mild subarctic climates, in fact it tends to spreading fast, using both, runners and seeds. Thus, in low hardiness zones, it sometimes is considered as being invasive.
To be able to germinate, its seeds do need temperatures well below freezing to stratify. It would put up with nearly any type of soil and condition except for lasting heat or extreme drought. In Europe, it is hardly ever found growing south of the 50th latitude.
Marion Gabriela Wick lives on a secluded, 3.5-acre homestead in North Frisia, Germany where she guides tours to the European Wadden Sea National Park and the salt marshes located almost at her doorstep. She has been instrumental in protecting Wiedingharde Beach’s unique “fruity heritage” made up from thousands of wild and heritage fruit trees and shrubs growing along roads and trenches, around fields and farm houses, planted by generations of farmers trying to protect their cottages and grain fields from the regions very harsh weather conditions. Read more from Marion at The Fairies Garden and connect with her on Facebook. Read all of Marion's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.