Ruby coloured rose hips, shining in the late afternoon sun are a sure sign that summer is drawing to an end.  

Labour Day weekend saw us heading for Brier Island, one of my favourite destinations in Nova Scotia. Along with friends, we spent a few nights camping near Pond Cove Beach where we walked on the sand, watched the seals and marvelled at the Northern Harriers swooping low to flush out their prey. DSCN5298

Along the dunes, an invasive shrub Rosa rugosa (Rugosa Rose) grows in abundance and at this time of year, the ruby coloured rose hips are ripe for picking.

Rugosa Rose Rose hipsRose hips are actually the fruit of the rose plant which forms after the flowers have been pollinated. Once the petals fall off, the hip swells and usually turns red, although some varieties are orange, purple, or black. Rose hips are some of the most nutritionally packed fruit of any plant. As well as being extremely rich in vitamin C, the hips also contain vitamins, A, E, and K, flavonoids, essential fatty acids and carotenoids.

When fresh, rose hips can have more than 60 times as much vitamin C as one orange. During World War II, when citrus fruits were scarce, the British Government encouraged housewives to make rosehip syrup.  During 1942, children were paid 3d per lb to collect rose hips and 200 tons were picked by boy scouts and girl guides. The government advised that 1 tsp a day would supply 1/2 of the daily requirement of vitamin C for children.

Many people still make the syrup. Diluted with about five parts cold water (or to taste), it makes a delicious cordial drink packed with Vitamin C to help boost your immune system. As a remedy for colds and sore throats, dilute with hot water and add fresh ginger and lemon.

Another great way to gain the health benefits of rosehips is to drink tea made by steeping the dried hips in boiling water. The delicately sweet tea gives a boost to the immune system during the cold months of winter.

So with the promise of good health, we filled a couple of bags with the edible gems, before catching the ferry for home.

rose hip syrup
Here are just a few of the ruby gems we harvested.

ROSE HIP SYRUP

Adapted from the original recipe used during wartime Britain.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg ripe rose hips
  • litres water
  • 500g brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. Have ready 2 litres of boiling water. Chop the rose hips in a food processor until well mashed and drop immediately into the boiling water and bring back to the boil.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Pour through a jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.
  3. Return the pulp to the saucepan, with a litre of boiling water. Bring back to the boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for another 20 minutes.
  4. Pour into the jelly bag and allow to drip.
  5. Add sugar to the strained rosehip liquid and dissolve. Allow to simmer for five minutes, then pour into hot, sterilised bottles.
  6. Makes: Approximately 2 litres

To dry the rose hips:

  1. Cut the hips in half and place them in a dehydrator.
  2. Depending on the size of the hips they should take about 5-6 hours to dry fully.
  3. Grind coarsely in a food processor.
  4. Store the dried rose hips in an airtight container.