The Fruit of the Rose

This year, for the first time in my life, I made homemade jam. Now, wherever I go, I’ve become keenly aware of homemade concoctions of jams, preserves and every variety of canned fruits and vegetables.

I have discovered a whole new culinary frontier.

Here in Rhode Island, it’s impossible to miss the fruit ripening on all the beach roses. It is Rosa rugosa, and it bears fruits commonly called rose hips, or in olde english, rose heps, a powerful source of vitamin C.

Rosa rugosa thrives in the inhospitable terrain near the beach, where it toughs it out while being doused with salt spray and beach sand.

It stoically prevents bank erosion while it’s treacherous thorniness is a formidable barricade to man and beast. Yet, unlike most of the garden roses we grow these days, it’s flowers have a sweetly intoxicating scent.

When the flower’s petals fall off, a fruit pod begins to develop…the ‘hep’.

By late summer, it’s the size of a cherry tomato, and usually red or orange.

Apparently, the best time to harvest the hips is after first frost, when they develop the best flavor.

There are many recipes on the internet, some even from the 16th and 17th century when herbalists used rose hips to heal many ailments such as kidney stones, intestinal problems, and joint discomfort.

When citrus was scarce during World War II, women and children collected the hips to make a vitamin rich syrup.

Come first frost, I’m cooking up some of these ripe red babies into a vitamin rich deliciousness, just in time to ward off winter colds.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I do with them!

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