I would like to understand why these pretty seed balls on bloomed rose bushes are called “hips.” They are really seed pods so wouldn’t “rose pods” make more sense? Though the term comes from Rosa rugosa or “beach rose,” if we want to get technical, because they are found growing on the beach.
They are edible like rose petals, making it necessary to be sure the plant or bush you harvest from has not been sprayed with a pesticide of any sort. My grandmother had a cupboard in our kitchen brimming with jars and small boxes of various herbs; strawberry leaves, raspberries, dried mint leaves and other like items she called her medicines. Most of these became teas, which she used honey to sweeten. This is how I first fell in love with “rose hip” tea usually brought out at the first sign of sniffles.
Grandma always swore the rose hip tea relieved some of her osteoarthritis pain. The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost and you can use them fresh or dried in various applications. In addition to tea, syrup is also a favorite. These pretty pods have up to 40 percent more vitamin C, 25 percent more iron, vitamin A and calcium than other usual citric sources.
But wait, there’s more! Rose hips are also a good source of pectin, bioflavonoids, vitamin E, the complex B vitamins plus trace amounts of important minerals. Because of the high vitamin C content some health food stores grind rose hips into a powder and make them into tablets.
Every year I make crab apple and sumac jelly and throw in some rose hips for the pectin and the color. Native American use of rose hips is fairly common for respiratory ailments. Some Pueblo people made a salve of it to apply directly to the ailment.
The high vitamin content of rose hips makes them a good choice for winter when other plants were not readily available. The tart, fruity taste of rose hips is reminiscent of cranberries, another tart fruit also high in vitamins.