I love to run. But I could never be a long-distance runner, owing to two reasons: firstly, I dislike structure. Running, no doubt, requires routine, or at least if you haven’t been blessed with naturally long legs and the lung capacity to carry you to all the way to the next town. Secondly, I am commonly distracted from the task at hand. Why beat your body up and drag yourself to yet another lamp post (those drudged landmark-like-goals), when your eyes are consumed by the colour of, for example, a bush-berry and it suddenly becomes so clear to you why you left the house in the first place?
I can use this excuse because it happened to me just the other day. The need to leave the house, shake something off, stretch out my limbs, sprint a bit, feel the heat in my chest, see the valley and its expiring green, and suddenly –
I skidded to a stop. They were everywhere! Saturating the side of the hilly slope, rose-hips, round and red and shining in the sun. I had never seen them like this before – so bright and big and ready to burst! They reminded me of micro-cherry tomatoes they were so ripe and ready for picking. The taste was simple and subtly sweet, very fleshy. Hips are for nibbling not eating – but it was such a fine and wild nibble, full of self-sufficient satisfaction, that I filled my pockets with more.
So in the pursuit of rose-hip picking, I ran home – my steady-paced run abandoned for a delighted sprint. I knew what I was running for: a bucket big enough to pick a batch for ‘winter-tea’ – dried rose-hips with a bit of honey. It’s a fact: three rose-hips contain the same amount of Vitamin C as a large, round orange. Who needs those bright-as-sun citrus fruits sent all the way from South Africa when you’ve got rose-hips growing on the slanted hillsides just 300 meters from your home?! After all, our land is referred to as Wild Rose Country (and not, say, Orange County) for good reason.
According to the Moyles household’s copy of Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Rockies (Kershaw, 2000) nearly all parts of the wild-rose shrubs are edible: hips, petals, leaves, bark, buds, roots, and stem. Because the hips grow year-round, many indigenous tribes used to consider them “famine food”, and during World War II, when the import of citrus fruits ceased to please, British and Scandinavian people collected hundreds of hips to make jelly, syrup and tea. The bark boiled into a tea was traditionally used to remedy diarrhea and ease the pains of childbirth, while the root combined with honey would soothe a sore-throat and tonsillitis. Rose-petals are perfect in salads and can even be candied for a sweet treat.
Admittedly, I didn’t. But knowing now makes me better appreciate the symbolism behind the prickly wild-rose and all its unique, unassuming abilities to cure, nourish and sustain life through the harshest winters. I’d run for rose-hips, any day of the week.
Treen’s Winter Rose-Hip Tea Pick rose-hips (remember to leave berries on every bush for the birds, too) – enough to fill the flat span of a baking tray, and wash them clean. Lay out the hips on a tray and dry using one of two methods: 1) place in the sun for a couple of days, 2) if it’s too chilly outside, set your oven at a very low heat (50 to 100 C) and put the hips in the oven – make sure to leave the oven door open for ventilation. Leave for approximately 30 minutes to an hour. They will emerge looking quite shrivelled – this is what you’re hoping for! Blend up the dried hips in a food processor and store in tightly sealed plastic bag or jar. Use 1-2 teaspoons of the dried hips for a pot of tea. Add honey, ginger, and cinnamon to taste!
Drink and think about Spring – tell yourself that it’s just around the corner…