Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harvesting Rose Hips

By A. Devia

Did you know that rose bushes produce berries that are not only edible but delicious and highly nutritious?  A rose bush berry is called a rosehip. Rosehips are one of the most nutrient rich foods in the world containing more vitamin C than oranges in addition to bioflavonoid, calcium, beta carotene, iron malates, citric acid, citrates, malic acid, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B1, B2, E, and K.  Use rosehips to add flavor to jam or tea, boost your immune system, and fight off a cold!

Harvesting rosehips carries the same safety warnings as rose petals.  Never harvest from a plant which has been treated with chemical pesticides, fertilizer or systemic rose food.  These are toxic and render the plant inedible for at least a year.  You also want to avoid any plants along roadsides as these have been exposed to exhaust fumes.

Rosehips are a fleshy berry surrounding a mass of seeds and hairy fibers.  Hips begin green and ripen to a vibrant red, orange or purple depending on the variety of rose.  The intensity of the color will tell you when they are ripe. A ripe rosehip will be soft but not mushy.  If the stems right under the hip are yellow, definitely pick them because they are ready to fall off the bush.

The best time to harvest rosehips is after the first frost.  The frost helps to sweeten the hips.  However, the woodland creatures and birds may force you to adjust your harvest time, so keep an eye on them.  To ensure a good harvest, stop harvesting your rose petals and pruning your bushes in late summer.  This allows enough time for the final blooms to pollinate, fruit, and ripen before the frost. If you are not harvesting rose petals, then you can let all of the blooms wither on the bush and may get as many as two or three rose hips harvests per season.  In this situation, it is perfectly ok to harvest before a frost.  Leaving them on the bush too long will shrivel them and lead to fungal problems.

The ripened rosehips should come off the bush easily.  Twist them between your finger and thumb until they fall off.  Alternately you came snip them from the bush and remove the remaining stem during processing.

Harvesting rosehips from hybrid plants could pose a problem.  Some hybrids have been cultivated to produce especially small hips and others do not produce hips at all.  If you do not think your bush is producing hips this could be the reason.  Alternate, if you are heading out to purchase bushes with the intent of harvesting rosehips, then pay special attention to the type of plant.  Purchase only a species rose, not a hybrid.

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