Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eat Your Rose Hips

By now most of the roses are gone, but not rose hips. Everybody loves roses for the beauty of their form. And we know we can capture their fragrance for perfumes and cosmetics, or by drying their petals for potpourri, and maybe even steep them in water for rosewater. However, it bears remembering that roses, and in particular their fruit, which are called hips, are a delicious and nutritious source of food.

Yes, Food!

Rosehips are full of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, especially. The best varieties of roses for hips are the wild roses - Rosa rugosa, R. moyesii, and the alpine rose R. pendulina. If you're looking for a named variety, opt for R. 'Frau Dagmar Hastrupp', it will yield hips in abundance.

Here are only a few of the myriad ways we can bring rose hips into the kitchen:
  • They can be chopped up and dried to make tea. To intensify the flavor, you may want to leave the dried rosehips in water, say 2-3 tablespoons to a cup of water, and boil for about 10 minutes.
  • And how about some booze? One can make a lovely rose hip liqueur by cutting, say, a pound of well-washed rosehips in half, taking care to cut off the calyx (the little "crown") and removing the hairs if you're using the hairy kind of rosehips. Put the hips, trimmed and cut, into a nice wine bottle. Add about 5 ounces of sugar and then pour a bottle of vodka or any such light clear spirit over everything. Seal the wine bottle, keep in the fridge at least a couple of months, et voila! Be sure to strain your newly-brewed liqueur before you imbibe.
  • But the best of all, I think, may be rosehip jam, arguably better than marmalade (and reputedly higher in Vitamin C content) on freshly homemade bread, toasted or untoasted. So, to wit: prepare the hips as described in the previous section for the liqueur - i.e., wash, cut, trim. Boil in a pot in just enough water to cover the hips, for about 20 minutes; then puree the softened hips. When the mixture is cooled, mix with sugar, return to stovetop, bringing to boil and then simmer for up to 5 minutes. The proportion of hips to sugar is two to one - that is, if you have 2 cups of rosehips, you use one cup of sugar. Naturally one can adjust proportions for taste.

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