|Rosa carolina in June|
|Rosa carolina in September|
Wild roses growing throughout eastern North America are most likely the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), a Japanese import. Back in the early 1900's they were purposely planted as a form of natural fencing. Now they are considered a nuisance since they pop up almost anywhere an open field isn't regularly mowed. The country road near my childhood home was lined on both sides with these wild roses and would be so pretty when in bloom. Every June we children would pretend that long road was a bridal path, lined with white. Come fall these bushes are laden with rose hips, providing a favorite winter food for wildlife, especially loved by mockingbirds.
The pink rose pictured above is the pasture rose (Rosa carolina), a somewhat low shrub about 5 feet tall. It gets wider each year but doesn't seem to spread like the multiflora rose. Solitary pink flowers bloom in late spring into early summer. The rose hips are small and seedy, good mainly for tea.
Rose hips provide an extraordinary amount of vitamin C which we may be familiar with when we buy our vitamin C supplements. To utilize this nutritious source of nature's bounty, wait until after frost to gather the hips. The frost helps sweeten the flavor. They will have turned a bright orange or red in color. Rose hips don't have much flesh beneath their skins. The inside is filled with seeds and most of the food value comes from the skin.
Rose hips may be used fresh or dried. One source I have says to trim off the stem and blossom ends, cut the hips in half and remove the seeds and wash well. Another source doesn't mention having to remove the seeds. But both articles say to place them in a single layer on a drying screen and allow to dry completely for a few weeks. When ready to store, they will be darker in color, hard and semi-wrinkley. Store them in an air-tight jar in a cool, dark place.
For making rose hip tea, the hips may be used fresh or dried.
For fresh, steep a tablespoon of clean hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.
For tea using dried hips, use only two teaspoons to each cup of boiling water and steep for 10 - 15 minutes.
Should you decide to gather your own rose hips, just be sure the bushes you choose are free of herbicides or pesticides. And of course as with any type of foraging, know for sure the identification of the plants.