By Candy Mullen
Special to the Daily Herald
Did you envision a fat rose bush with huge hips or perhaps a person wearing roses on their hips? Gardeners of roses know immediately what the term means. A "rose hip" is actually the seedpod of roses. Many people don't even see them any more as it seems gardeners are out there with pruners as soon as blooms fade. Leave the spent flowers on the bush at the end of the season and you should see small, berry-sized, reddish seed balls on the end of the stems. They are very ornamental for arrangements and the birds love them also. Depending on the type of rose, the hips can be red, orange, dark purple ranging to black shades.
Did you know that rose hips and rose petals are edible? Roses are actually in the same family as apples and crabapples. Look at the hips and you will see a close resemblance to apples.
They are tart and are loaded with Vitamin C. They have a tangy, fruity flavor similar to cranberries. All roses should produce hips although rugosa roses are said to have the best tasting ones, also the largest.
To harvest rose hips, wait until after the first frost. We can expect one at any time now, so be prepared. Frost will help to sweeten the flavor. Select hips that are firm and have good color. Leave the shriveled and dried hips for the birds that will feast upon them.
If you are using the hips for decoration in your arrangements you can use any of them, but if you are harvesting to use them for food, you must make sure no pesticides have been used on your plants.
Rose hips make great jellies, sauces, pies, syrups, soups and seasoning. Each hip comprises an outer fleshy layer, which may contain up to 150 seeds embedded in a matrix of fine hairs. The hairs should be removed before using the hips in a recipe.
But also try rose hip tea. It will please your palate. You can use either dried or fresh hips for tea. Use about twice as many hips if you use fresh ones. For fresh hips, steep 4 to 8 hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy the delightful scent and flavors. Add sugar to taste. If you don't have roses, you can also buy hips in many stores.
Roses are not only the showpiece of many gardens, but their hips and petals have been used for centuries as food and drink. So sit back and enjoy the taste of summer and dream of beauty while sipping that cup of "hip" tea.
Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.