Autumn here is always so colourfully punctuated by the brilliant red orbs of the rose hips as they hang themselves out for the picking. In the early summer, we spent an afternoon with Ange delicately lifting off the fragrant petals of the roses, being careful to leave the centers, which now have plumped up with seeds on the almost leafless brambles. On the west coast, we get far more rain than frosts, and so collecting rose hips before they get too soaked and rotten is a better bet than waiting for a first frost. With the seven of us, we collected almost ten cups in an hour, and then came back to our house to cook them into a syrup for use during the winter. Cedar particularly liked the thorns, and we discussed the energies of protection that surround the rose and it’s ability to defend us from illness and disease.
The hips of the rose (rosa canina and related species… here we have the nootka rose or rosa nutkana) are loaded primarily with vitamin C, many times the amount found in citrus fruit when measured gram for gram. Vitamin C is a noted antioxidant with disease fighting abilities.
“The astringency of rose hips can help relieve dysentery and diarrhoea. In addition, the various flavonoids, coupled with the Vitamin C, have potent antioxidant action and help protect the body from numerous internal and external stresses. The high vitamin C content of rose hips will therefore be extremely useful in preventing and fighting infections, colds, flu, and pneumonia, (syrup is the classic way to preserve hips).
Vitamin C and bio-flavonoid molecules are always combined together in nature. This is how our bodies experience Vitamin C when eating fruits. Rose hips are rich in this vital chemical complex, known to strengthen body tissues and help to build and maintain a healthy vascular system, preventing damage to fragile capillaries.” Christopher Hope
Rose hip syrup was exactly our plan for the day. We simmered 4 cups of hips in 8 cups of water for a few hours, until the hips were soft enough to mash and the water quantity had diminished by a few cups. After mashing everything in the pot, we then poured the contents through cheese cloth, collecting the liquid in a bowl, and then we squeezed every precious drop out of the pulp. It was a beautiful deep red with a tinge of orange. We then added about a cup of honey to sweeten it to our liking, which helps to preserve the syrup while adding the medicinal benefits of the honey to the elixir.
Traditionally, before the invention of the fridge, a lot more honey would be added as a preservative, making it more of a thick syrup. Our syrup is more like a decoction that will last three months in the fridge. We have enjoyed it by the spoonful, mixed in with our smoothies, or added to warmed up spiced apple cider. We did try to cut some of the hip open and scrape out the seeds and the fine hairs inside so we could dry the outside part for making tea. The hairs can be irritating to the throat, (and to the bottom end on their way out), so it is especially important to remove the seeds and hairs before drying. We found the task to be time consuming and tedious, so we didn’t do too much of it. I think the syrup will be a more widely used and appreciated preparation of this years’ rose hips. Thanks again, Ange, for leading us through this simple and warming process of preparing the beautiful rose hips!