By Savayda Jarone
The wild rose is a familiar backdrop to the Nova Scotia landscape; Rosa rugosa and Rosa canina are the two most common varieties, found in well-established colonies around the province. They flourish here as perennial shrubs, bearing sweet scented pink and white blossoms throughout summer and vibrant fruits in the fall.
The fruits, called rosehips, mature to bright orangey red globes about the size of a small plum; when ripe they are soft upon squeezing. The skin and thin layer of flesh underneath are edible, and the seeds in the centre are the source of rosehip seed oil, used as a nutritional supplement and in cosmetics.
Rosehips have been used as food and medicine here in Nova Scotia since the colonies were first settled a few centuries ago, and throughout the world in traditional medicine practices; old recipe books and folklore note their use in jellies, syrups, wine, pies, and teas. The Mi’kmaq used the entire rose plant as a source of food and medicine.
Rosehips have long been appreciated as a good source of vitamin C; nutritional analysis shows that they contain up to nine times more of this immune-enhancing vitamin than oranges. They are featured in old time and modern preparations for treating cold and flu.
Modern research supports the use of rosehips for a variety of ailments, including arthritis, diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases. The antioxidants are shown to help protect against cancer. For medicinal purposes, rosehip powder can be added to teas and smoothies.
My favorite way to use rosehip is an oxymel, a honey/vinegar preparation, which can be taken in warm water at the first sign of cold or flu:
1 cup fresh, chopped rosehips
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup liquid honey
Place all ingredients in a large glass jar. Stir well and seal. Let sit for 2 weeks, shake a few times. Strain and store in a glass bottle in the fridge, for up to 3 months. Take 1 tbsp. as needed, several times daily, at the onset of cold and flu symptoms, or add to sparkling water as a yummy, nutritional tonic.
I also like to dehydrate them for use in tea blends; they add colour and sweet/sour flavours.
If you want to partake in the rosehip harvest, wait until after the first frost when the fruit becomes sweeter. Wild food foraging is a great way to connect with nature and the abundance provided by the wild rose, and several other members of the Rose Family of plants, including raspberry, blackberry, and cherries. Enjoy the late summer harvest!
Savayda is a registered herbal practitioner and herbal educator (www.bloominstitute.ca)