IN the days before vitamins were sold in jars, people relied on the autumnal abundance of mother nature to fend off winter colds and flus.
In this respect rosehips are the royals of the hedgerow with their vibrant red swellings, not only brightening up winter hedgerows but also being esteemed for their edible and medicinal merits.
A rosehip is merely the fruit of a rose and like the majority of fruits, most of the food value and nutrition lies in its skin. It contains higher percentages of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, iron and calcium than oranges, lemons and blackcurrants.
There are thousands of species of roses worldwide with colors and shapes of hips varying from one species to another. When harvesting rosehips for culinary purposes it is best to avoid modern and hybrid varieties and to only use those of our native Dog Rose (Rosa Canina) or those of Rosa Rugosa whose hips are much larger, sweeter, shaped more like tomatoes and easier to work with than their wild rosie relatives.
Up until the end of this month, rosehips are generally there for the reaping. It is best to avoid collecting them from busy roadsides and fields sprayed with chemicals. Look for deep red, firm, clean, plump, fresh rosehips that are in their prime. Overripe berries will have a dull colour and will be squishy to touch.
Rosehips can be used fresh, dried, preserved or frozen to maintain a rich supply of Vitamin C throughout the cold and flu season.
Prepare by washing thoroughly, removing stalks and sepals and if freezing, weigh first. Some say that rosehips taste better after the first frost, so freezing the fruit will not jeopardise the flavour. If you wish to dry rose hips for later use in teas and infusions, place them on a dish inside an oven set below 100°C. Leave the oven door slightly open and dry the hips for about an hour, checking them from time to time.
Rosehips have an unusually fruity, tart, sweet, yet sour flavour. They have traditionally been used to make tea, wine, soup, syrup, jam and jelly. To prepare a simple rosehip tea, crush the fruits and steep for 15 – 20 minutes in boiling water, strain thoroughly to make sure all the sharp hairs are removed and sweeten with honey if desired.
Rosehip syrup is really the starting point for all useful rosehip recipes. This relatively easy to make tonic is a delicious way of supplementing vitamin C needs.
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