What are Rose Hips?
Rose hips, also spelled rosehips, are the fruit of the rose bush. If the rose's blossoms are left on the plant and allowed to drop their petals, they will form a seed pod that is known by this name. Forming seed pods takes energy away from blossom production. In roses cultivated for the flower, the hips are rarely allowed to form. The gardener will "dead-head" the rose bush — snipping or pulling off the fading blossoms — to "confuse" the bush into blooming again. Different varieties of roses have different sizes and types of rose hips.
People can use rose hips are a food and vitamin source; they provide a very concentrated form of vitamin C, and as a tea, they have long been prescribed for prevention and treatment of the common cold. Dried rose hips can be steeped for 10-15 minutes in boiling water to yield a slightly astringent drink. Native Americans traditionally put the fruit into soups and stews after using them for tea, since the steeping process doesn't extract the full load of vitamins and they make an interesting flavor addition, somewhat like the lemongrass used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
Rose hips are also full of bioflavonoids, associated with fruit pigment. Bioflavonoids are reputed to have numerous health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease and cancer, that are currently under study. People who are prone to urinary tract infections might be interested to know that some consider this tea and other preparations as effective as cranberry juice in warding off recurrences.
Rose hip jelly is an old-fashioned nostrum that some people made during World War II when citrus fruit may have been difficult to obtain due to naval blockades. The fruit of the rose was free for the taking in the hedgerows alongside the roads. This jelly was a widely prescribed condiment for strengthening invalids after a long illness.
Wild roses typically have superior rose hips, since they haven't been bred for lavish flowers. People planning to grow roses for their fruit, or already grow own roses and wish to harvest it, should avoid insecticides or other toxins, since these will concentrate in the seed pod.
@clintflint - Some people will enjoy it and some won't. Rose hips have so many uses, I wouldn't be without them in my garden. They are very nutritious and a good source of vitamin C. You can even eat them raw, although you have to be careful of the little hairs that are inside the pod, since they can be so irritating they are actually used in itching powder.
@irontoenail - The problem is that you have to choose between the hips and having more flowers. And it's usually the wild roses that have a lot of hips, so they are more difficult to control in a garden.
In my experience, people who are growing roses tend to like an orderly garden and like to lavish a lot of fussy care on their plants, so they aren't going to particularly enjoy growing roses for their hips.
It's definitely worth growing a couple of bushes of roses for their rose hips, even if you don't want to use them for any kind of culinary or medicinal purposes. Roses that have prominent sprays of bright red hips are quite lovely and the hips themselves can be used in dried flower arrangements as well.
When you consider what rose bushes look like for a lot of the year when they don't have flowers, I think cultivating them for hips can make a big difference to the appearance of your garden.
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