With Thanksgiving dinner just behind us it seems like the perfect time to talk about big hips. But I'm not talking about the turkey, potatoes and pie kind of hips. I love roses with big hips. I once grew a white rose named after Princess Diana; so small, pale and demure. Unlike the royal namesake the rose was unremarkable, yet the hips, whoa, the hips. Incredibly round, red and robust, these hips were the main attraction that overwhelmed the shrub in late summer. What would Diana have thought?
Not every rose has big hips. Rugosas are the most reliable for producing the large, pronounced seed pods. That's what hips are, just big seed pods that offer one more season of interest, as well as adding habitat value to your garden, because the birds adore them. Up north growing Pavement series roses I find consolation in their luscious hips; the blooms while highly fragrant are short-lived and shatter easily.
In shades of scarlet to burnt orange hips rival berries for winter decoration. However my Rosa glauca, an understated, still interesting native rose with small pink star-shaped flowers, blue-green foliage and red stems puts out prolific quantitites of olive-green hips, pretty in their own way.
While deadheading roses can prolong flowering, once the season wanes, blooms left to mature will produce hips of various shapes and sizes. They range from small bead-like pips to plump little apple-like productions. These larger hips like that of the rugosa, are the best for human consumption. As with all wild edibles, avoid those where pesticide was used and approach with caution should you suffer from allergies.
Touched by frost they start to shrivel then sweeten. You can harvest the hips to make tea, jelly or syrup. When making tea, use them fresh or dry them for a winter pick-me-up. Snip the hips and cut in half, scrape out the seeds and infuse with boiling water. Technically that process names the finished product; an infusion, but for simplicity's sake we'll call it tea.The resulting rosy-golden liquid has a delicious mildly tart taste that provides more vitamin C than citrus. And once again, it is so satisfying to find food in your front-yard.