Rose berries, called rose hips or just hips, are very attractive in the fall. Most turn bright red, although some are purple, and generally they persist through a good part of the winter. And when the fruits do disappear, it’s usually because birds have discovered them. So, if you don’t remove them (the unfortunate mania of excessive gardeners is to remove all faded flowers and therefore they never see the beautiful fruits that follow!), you’ll have a “two for the price of one”: beautiful fall/winter fruits and an invitation to birds to visit your winter garden.
In fact, make that a “three for the price of one”: rose hips are edible and indeed very rich in vitamin C (20 times higher than citrus!) as well as vitamin B, carotene (provitamin A) and minerals. Since they are usually acidic and rather astringent, they are rarely eaten fresh, but rather cooked with sugar. Wait until the fruit softens before harvesting, usually after one or two hard frosts. They can then be made into syrups, jellies, marmalades, ketchups and even soups (rose-hip soup is a traditional recipe in Sweden).
An Unpleasant Side Effect
It’s important, however, to remove the seeds before consuming the fruits. In most species, including the popular rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), the seeds are covered in irritating hairs that can cause unpleasant reactions to the skin and mucous membranes. And the irritation is carried right through the digestive tract. As a result, the French call rose hips “gratte-culs” (butt scratchers), while Amerindian tribes described the result as “itchy bottom disease.” I figure you get the picture!
The fine hairs can even be ground up and used as itching powder, popularly used as a practical joke … although you can be pretty sure the butt of the joke (couldn’t resistant that one!) won’t be laughing!
So, remove the seeds before you cook up that fantastic family rose hip recipe you just discovered in great-grandma’s cookbook … and the whole family will be grateful!