Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

Spring is for nettle, fall is for rose. Collecting wild foods and medicines is a damn near year-round pursuit in the mild climate of the PNW, but these two plants really stick out in my mind. Maybe it's because they're abundant both here and in Finland, but they are important to me, plants I look forward to working with.

Last sunday was my rosehip gathering day. Typically, unlike nettles, I only harvest them once or twice in a season, but in quantity. This year's first harvest happened on an unseasonably balmy day, in T-shirt weather, cheekbones to the sun's brightness, of a moment of warmth, the last huzzah of a long, hot summer.

I sat on the hillside drinking tea, watching the seagulls and the eagles float in the mild wind, quiet as a mouse, slowly becoming part of the landscape. One of the many benefits of wildcrafting to me is suddenly becoming closer to nature, being inadvertently lured into the plant's-wiew of the world, still, but always turning towards the sun, bending to he wind, digging minutely into the earth, so as to stay grounder, moving slowly and deliberately.

Occasionally I get requests from readers, both in comments and via email, asking me to share recipes. Which would be a fine pursuit were it not for two things: I cook and make stuff very intuitively and sans measurable quantities and the act of making happens mostly after dark, when there is no light for photos.

That aside, here's some ideas for your roses, both wild and garden variety, both native and not. Always make sure you harvest from clean places, fruits and leaves and flowers of plants you're sure aren't growing in suspicious conditions.

Sometimes the garden variety rosehips can indeed be more wonderful when it comes to rose, because they are so much fleshier than their wild cousins. I still miss those big fat hips ripe for the picking off the overflowing bushes of small houses in the neighborhoods I used to live in back home. Those make grand jam and their seeds are less like rocks than the Nootka Roses around here (or the Dog Roses pictured-thanks Adrienne!).

Most of the time I don't have the time to make the labor-intensive jam and find that the greatest way to reap the many benefits of rose, is simply drying the hips whole for tea. Especially since the rich, glorious vitamin C they contain in abundance, is heat sensitive and should be kept below 70º degrees if possible. Both of my favorite methods do reduce the pure rose essence of vitamin C, but they can be consumed in a bit more quantity to make up for it.

Rosehips are also wonderful for UTIs and general urethra and kidney health, as they are a mild laxative and diuretic and because of their vitamin content and energy-moving qualities. They help with inflammation and have tons of antioxidants, making them a great seasonal remedy to almost anyone in the Western world, which is so rife with autoimmune conditions which often manifest as inflammation.  They contain a lot of vitamin A which makes them a good skin tonic, and you can in fact infuse an oil with the hips (add dry petals of rose for a great skin treatment!). Mainly I like to use them for cold prevention, though.

The basic rosehip-syrup I like to make contains only two ingredients and is easy as-all-get-out, save for the time spent cleaning the fruit.

-For a batch of a five pints of syrup, you will need roughly (no measurements here), about 2.5 pints of raw, organic honey and a gallon (the amount that would fit to a gallon container) of rosehips. Much depends on what kinds of hips you use.

-You'll also need a saucepan, cheese cloth or a thick-mesh strainer, and some sort of food thermometer. I say some sort because I use my meat thermometer (which we never use for meat) for everything from candy, to this, which is not ideal.

-If you live somewhere where it freezes you should definitely collect them after the first frost. Otherwise I recommend getting them after it's been dry for a while, to avoid mold.

-Clean the hips by plucking off both stems on the ends.

-Put them in a sauce pan with a little bit of water (like 1/2 cup to a cup), seeds and all and cover them with a lid. Bring them to a quick boil, the quicker you make it the more of the vitamin C you'll be able to retain. Mush the hips with a fork, until they're mushy and there's liquid. It will congeal, because the seeds have natural pectin in them, resulting a thick syrupy texture.

-Fill a test pint halfway with honey then strain the hip-juice in, mushing and making sure you get every last liquid bit of it. The juice should be warm but not hot. Once you have 1/2 honey, half rose hip juice (which will be thick and oozy, not runny), put the lid on and shake your jar well. You want the two components to emulsify completely. Now you have an idea how much liquid your hips will make and can fill the rest of your jars with honey accordingly.

-Store in a refrigerator if you like, though I've never had a jar go bad, because the honey and the astringency of the hips will help keep it good. Take liberally when you feel a cold coming on, or mix in with warm (not boiling!) water.

Another lovely way to do this is to tincture the hips in alcohol and then mix that with honey. I like whiskey, myself, for a cold emergency hot toddy. Delicious and delirious…

If I had the time and energy, I would love to make the rosehip jam of my native lands though, but in the absence of that, turns out, the medicinal syrup tastes great on pancakes, something we tried this summer  on our camping trip.

I do hope there are roses in your area, but if not, do you have fall rituals around food, or medicine? Pumpkin patches, apple pickins? Something I've never even heard off?

Standard disclaimer: If you're planning to poison yourself by eating the wrong stuff, I'll be so sad, but I won't be held accountable. Okay? Good. You're a grown-up. Whee!


  1. I can't believe how sunshiney and summery it looks in your pictures (I'm sitting huddled here with a huge shawl around me while wild winds blow and the rain pelts against the windows).......I love using rosehips too, I made a french style jam with some the other year which gradually became incredibly thick and tar like, I ended up stirring some into some thick cream and using it to make a rose tasting ganache for some white chocolate truffles.....they looked a bit on the lumpy side but they tasted really wonderful, I also tried making a ganache with omemade raspberry jam which was less lumpy and made eye closingly delicious chocolates. I'm afraid my wild food harvesting doesn't end up as healthily as yours!
    I know you wrote you've been feeling poorly but you look really radiant and glowing in the top picture (like you are a wild rose yourself)

  2. First, I love your outfit and your hair! Second, I love roses too! I've never used them for any other purpose then decoration, but I'm glad you shared these tips! Have a great fall, Milla!

  3. Mitkä kuvat!! Varsinkin eka ja vika,vau!
    Ajattelin juuri pari päivää sitten ruusunmarjoja,pitäisikin lähteä katsomaan löytyisikö vielä,vai ovatko jo vallan lötkähtäneet.
    Suomessa on tänä vuonna erityisen paljon pihlajanmarjoja ja niitä olen kuivannut ja hillonnutkin.
    Ollaan maalla ja täällä sataa lunta:-)

  4. I've never had the privilege of picking my own, but I do buy them dried from my favorite herb vendor at the market. I like making a tea blend that includes the rose hips, nettles, and red raspberry leaf. It's delicious and always perks me up a bit.

  5. I never had a rosebush that made a hip. Must be in the wild varieties. Can't believe they have spines on them and are so large. I would love to try making jam or jelly with them. Can't imagine what it would taste like. I love the idea of syrup and a tincture for the sniffles.

  6. well hi there pretty miss rosa. and i see that shirt you're wearing.

    i like the whiskey idea, i've never tried that! i'm all about whiskey in warm winter drinks. funny thing about moving rurally, is that i still "lost" my old foraging spots, like the hips i would harvest up at grace cathedral in the city. i found a lovely patch of wild rose the other day in bolinas, loaded with ruby fruits and utterly surrounded by brambles. such a tease. the marriot hotel in town, where jeff's folks stayed, has bushes in front that are loaded, but also in view of the front desk. i guess i could ask, but i feel resistant and want to graduate from ghetto sources. :)

    all right, gonna try to post this. c'mon blogger, don't be a jerk...

  7. My Mom's side is Hungarian, and growing up, my sister and used to love to make "rosehip juice" by watering down the syrup she kept beneath the kitchen sink.

    Do you know how much longer the the rosehips should be harvestable? Would love to get out there before they're all done (or perhaps I'm already too late)?


    1. Woops, that would be my grandmother's rosehip syrup,which we savoured during our visits! :)

  8. This is the time of year I pick a load of hawthorne berries, and rosehips as well, for tea throughout the winter.

  9. I didn't know rose hips are good for inflammation. I got prescribed prendnisone... I'll see if the local herbs store has some affordable rose hips, or maybe Mountain Rose Herbs does. They have chestnuts here! I scored a bunch of chestnuts. It is so wonderful to commune with medicine. How blessed to be able to wildcraft :) Thanks for sharing. I feel a bit closer to one of my homes. Thank you for that. My heart is doing funny stuff.

    1. I wet to the co-op today and they are selling them for $10 a lb. I was feeling rather crafty when I saw that sign. Roasting them is lovely. I saw a recipe for chestnut soup that sounded really decadent...

  10. Hah! I snorted a little from the disclaimer. ;-)

    My co-workers and I walk by sooo many houses with rose hips bursting out onto the sidewalk on our daily walk route. I haven't yet worked up the courage to snag them, but ohhhhhh I want to.

    1. Snag some! They're excellent in tea, BUT only have them after your babe, rose hips are not safe for pregnant ladies <3

  11. This is so cool! I think I learn everything about wildcrafting from you and you alone. Such an inspiration!

    1. Hahah! That could be dangerous my dear. I'd be curious to hear about Southern Wilds and what you can find in the city. Sending you love.