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Monday, July 9, 2012

Rose hips: Homegrown vitamin C

We have all heard references from the past to scurvy, whether it was scurvy dogs on pirate ships, or the use of scurvy grass to combat the winter ailment.  Now we know that scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C.  We have also learned that Vitamin C is necessary for the immune system to function properly, and we have all sorts of vitamin C boost for sickness. 

I have stumbled across another source of vitamin C that is much closer to home, and doesn't require highly processed and expensive pills or packets from the pharmacy.  Rose hips were used in Britain during World War II as a homegrown source of vitamin C when citrus fruit were unavailable or expensive. 

A rose hip is simply the fruit of a rose bush.  They are the red ball left behind once the rose has flowered.    Some I have had tasted like sweet tart berries, others tasted like sun dried tomatoes.  I guess that when they breed roses, they do not take into account the flavor of the rose hips, so you may have to find your own variety that has a pleasant flavor.  The problem with eating rose hips is that they are full of seeds, and around the seeds are tiny hairs that are irritating, not only to the mouth but to the digestive track as well. 

To get around this problem, the Brits made rose hip syrup or rose hip jelly.  First they would smash the hips, and then add them to boiling water.  Turn off the heat and let them rest for about 15 minutes, then strain through a jelly bag.  You can repeat the process up to three times with the same rose hips and still  get vitamins out of them.  Once you have the strained juice add about 1 lb of sugar for every 1 lb of rose hips you started with.  Put it in sterilized jars and you have your own homegrown source of vitamin C with many times the vitamin C of oranges.  If you want a thicker syrup you can heat the sugar mixture again waiting until it is as thick as you want, even going so far as to make a jelly out of it. 

The resulting syrup keeps wonderfully and can be used as a sweetener, or whenever you feel the beginnings of an illness, just like the store bought vitamin C.  If it ever becomes too expensive to transport citrus, or if you have an issue with eating things that have traveled thousands of miles just to reach you, then rose hips may be your answer.

Much of the information in this post comes from the book

Food for Free by Richard Mabey

You can find a copy of the book here

You can find other books on foraging and wild foods here

As always

Live a Hands On Life

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