Sub Rosa

Illustration of a rosehip

Written on

September 01 , 2007

If you walk along the back roads and country lanes of rural Vermont this fall, you’re likely to encounter wild roses. Sometimes you’ll find them near old cellar holes and abandoned roads. You can easily distinguish the wild rose because, unlike its hybrid relative, it has only five petals.

Our “wild roses” are most likely descendants of imported wild roses planted long ago by early European settlers. Most people are familiar with Rugosa rose and Multiflora rose, two hardy roses that have been used in landscaping since their arrival here. But did you know that roses are part of the same family as apples? This relationship can be seen in the showy flower and subsequent fruit common to both. In the rose family, this fruit is referred to as the “hip.”

With the onset of cooler nights, Vermont’s wild roses start to shed their petals, and the remaining “hips” ripen and turn a brilliant red or orange. The first frost of the season further aids rose hips by making their flesh more tender and a little sweeter. In some species of wild rose the hip can be as large as a crab apple, while in others it is quite small. Regardless of the size, rose hips are an excellent source of vitamin C, and their medicinal use over countless centuries is a testament to the power of this wild edible.

If you encounter a wild rose here in Vermont, trim off the stems and blossoms. Then cut the hip in half and scoop out the seeds, as these have a bitter taste. Wash the hip well before using it in a recipe or brewing it for tea.

Remember, when collecting any wild edible, be respectful of the environment and pick responsibly. Here are two great recipes using rose hips!


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