Wednesday, October 06, 2010

But do they taste as sweet?

Carolina rose hips
This past spring I located (and blogged about) the native Carolina rose and the invasive multiflora rose, both of which are found on Roundtop. The other evening I relocated both plants and have now found that even the rose hips of the two plants are different. So even now, in the fall, I can tell the difference between them.

The native Carolina rose has round and smaller rose hips. The multiflora rose has a larger and elliptical-shaped rose hip. There are other, more subtle differences, too. The blossom end of the Carolina rose is a bit larger than the tiny spot on the multiflora rose. On the multiflora rose, the flowers are all up and down the stem, and so are the rose hips. With the Carolina rose, the flowers are clumped together and naturally, so are the hips.

Rose hips are edible and birds love them, scattering the seeds in their poop. People make tea and jellies with them. I’m told that you should wait until after the first frost to gather them, as the frost sweetens them. Some rose species apparently have better-tasting rose hips than others. For tea, the recipe I’ve seen says to steep 4-8 hips in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Some recipes suggest you prepare the rose hips before using them. Others say to use them whole. To prepare them, the directions are to trim the stem and blossom ends, slice the hip in half and remove the inners seeds, using scissors if the hips are too small for a knife.

Multiflora rose hips
If you dry the hips before you use them, you won’t need as many in your recipes. Drying is a simple matter of spreading them out somewhere and letting them dry to the point where the skin just begins to feel and look shriveled. Then, you split them and remove the seeds. Apparently, if the hips are too dry, you can’t remove the seeds and if they are not dry enough the inside pulp is sticky and will cling to the seeds. 

After the seeds are removed, let the hips dry completely or they won’t keep well. You can store them in sealed plastic bags for several months or freeze them so they last indefinitely.

I’ve never tried to eat or use rose hips before, but I think I’m going to this year. All rose hips are edible, the literature says, so I think it’s worth trying. I’ve read the hips are packed with vitamin C and once dried or frozen can be eaten like candy. And perhaps if I eat the multiflora rose hips, that will help keep them from spreading so fast. (I can only wish.)

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