Autumn is the time for collecting our supplies of wonderful flavourful, culinary and medicinal herbs. Rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, lemongrass, bay and dozens more should be harvested and carefully dried for future use. Hot infused oils and tinctures should be prepared for winter storage and medicine making requirements, along with herbs needed for your favourite herbal teas. Lemon verbena, peppermints, and stinging nettle to name just a few that are ready now.
Also my personal favourite – rose hips are just waiting for collection. Roses are best pruned around June and July – collect the hips in the coming weeks for their wonderful benefits that will see you and your family provided for over the winter period, with natural vitamins and minerals. Rose hips are an excellent alternative and very high food source of vitamin C. All roses are edible and a rose hip is merely the fruit of the rose plant. The skin of the hip often tasting like an apple, is where most of the food value and nutrition lies.
Compare the nutritional content of oranges to rose hips and you will find that rose hips contain 25% more iron, 20-50% more vitamin C (depending on the variety), 25 times more vitamin A and 28% more calcium. In addition, rose hips are a rich source of bioflavnoids, pectin, vitamin E, selenium, manganese, and the B-complex vitamins. Rose hips also contain trace amounts of magnesium, potassium, sulfur and silica. Roses are indeed a rich source of nutrients (nature is truly amazing). The best hips are produced from the Rugosa varieties of rose. They develop large bright red hips that look and taste great and are the richest in nutrients, although any hips may be used.
Rose hips can be made into jelly, syrup, wine and other edible gifts. They may be used fresh or dried. To dry them – discard any poor quality hips, rinse well, pat dry and spread on wax paper and dry in a hot water cupboard or in a dehydrator set to 38ºC – until semi-wrinkly and hard. This may take several weeks in the hot water cupboard. Store in jars out of the light.
For a herbal tea – decoct (simmer gently) in water for approximately 15 mins – sweeten with honey if needed, but ensure the tea is well strained before drinking. A syrup for pancakes etc, may also be made from rose hips – once a standard medicine given to all babies during the 60’s and 70’s and was also given to the troops during World War II to prevent scurvy which is a vitamin C deficiency.
Do not collect rose hips that have been sprayed for obvious reasons.
Rose hips store well and may be useful to improve hoof conditions in horses when added to their feed regularly. As if you needed more reason to plant roses in your garden!!
Note: Vitamin C is now a “prescription only” medicine in Europe and it may only be a matter of time before this occurs in NZ also – so don’t waste this valuable resource if you are lucky enough to have some and if not – plant some.