Rose Hips: An Unexpected Source of Vitamin C

Grow delicate rose hips for a tea that contains as much vitamin C as six oranges or a sweet syrup for waffles, pancakes and ice cream.

| January/February 1981

Lately, more and more people have begun to understand just how limited — in both variety and nutritional value — our "modern" diets have become. This realization has sparked a new and widespread interest in the culinary and therapeutic uses of herbs . . . those plants which — although not well-known today — were, just one short generation ago, honored "guests" on the dinner tables and in the medicine chests of our grandparents' homes. In this regular feature, MOTHER EARTH NEWS examines the availability, cultivation, and benefits of our "forgotten" vegetable foods and remedies . . . and — we hope — helps prevent the loss of still another bit of ancestral lore. 

Harvesting and Storing Rose Hips

The last rose of summer has long faded and gone . . . but it left behind a little bright red or orange fruit that's just loaded with vitamin C (it contains smaller — but still significant — amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and iron, as well). In fact, every teaspoon of rose hips that you include in your teapot can provide you with as much of the valuable supplement as five or six large oranges!

Since rose bushes are members of the Rosaceae family (which includes strawberries, apples, cherries, plums, and raspberries), it's not surprising that the best of these little hips have a tart, applelike taste that can be enjoyed in the form of jams, jellies, and syrups. One of the most flavorful species is the Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa ), which grows so abundantly in the eastern United States that it's now considered a nuisance.

The rose's vitamin-packed seed pods are ripe when their colors are bright and the berries detach easily from the stalk. To brew the fresh hips as tea, just chop them up and let the berries steep in hot water until the desired strength is reached . . . or mix the diced fruit with your favorite tea blend.

You'll probably want to dry and store some rose hips for future use, too. If you're in no hurry to get the process over with, simply slice off the top and bottom tips ,cut the hips in half, and spread them out for several days in an airy place (but avoid direct sunlight or high temperatures, to prevent the loss of vitamin C).

You can dehydrate the hips more quickly, of course, by placing them — for about an hour — in an oven set at less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. (Your gas stove's pilot light will serve this purpose.) Store the dried pods in airtight containers and grind them as they're needed.

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