Friday, October 28, 2011

Harvest Ingredient 26: Rose Hips

Although rose hips are not exclusively native to the Americas, they are an important and ancient source of the food in the fall and winter months.  And while other cultures around the world have largely grown away from using them in traditional ways, native Americans have never given up their use of rose hips--even going to far as to bring them in the high end restaurant kitchen.  Also, their widest use in the the Pacific Northwest; and I haven't really covered that part of the Naive cooking repertoire yet--so here it is.

As the name implies, these are the fruits of roses.  Not all roses produce edible hips, but the few that do provide a easy source of food in Autumn for humans and animals alike.  Roses are related to apples and haws; if you think about it, apples actually kind of look like gigantic hips--the red ones anyway.  Rose hip are not only smaller than haws, and obviously, apples; they are also much, much dryer and very sour.  They have a variety of uses, both a food and as a multiple use medicine.

Dried Rose Hips

Rose hips are of the foods highest in vitamin C, even when cooked or dried; with the wild dog rose producing hips with the highest level of vit. C.  They are also pretty high in vitamin A and traces all the B vintamins.  They have a large amount of lycopene, which has become all the health rage recently.  They also are high essential fatty acids and flavonoids, and may boost the immune system.  Recently research has shown that they are powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and they are becoming a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.  When made into a tea they become beneficial in treating sore throats.

A cold pressed oil is obtained from the seeds of rose hips, and simply called Rose Hip Seed Oil.  It is unique amongst all of the vegetable derived oil in that is has retinol in it, that is that has a large amount of Vit. A, even after processing.  It is also rich in Omega fatty acids, although it does have culinary uses, it mostly goes into beauty products and medicinal creams to treat eczema and dermatitis and the oil itself is better than liquid vitamin E in aiding in the healing of scars. It also goes into nail care products.   It is mostly made from the hips of Rosa moschata and Rosa rubinginosa Chile and Argentina.

As for culinary uses, being a close relative of apples, they naturally lend themselves for the same preparations as apples.  They can be made into jelly, jams and even marmalades.  Around the world, rose hips are a common ingredient in a tisane (herbal tea) that also contains hibiscus.  A kind of "red zinger" herbal tea is made by combining unsweetened rose hips with Roselle which is also called Jamaica in Spanish, they are a tart flower originally native to Africa.  Brought to the New World by enslaved Africans and is now wildly popular throughout Latin American, especially the Caribbean and Mexico.  Rose hips are also used to make wines around the world, and flavors the traditional alcoholic  beverage Palinka in Hungary.  In Slovenia, they flavor a popular soda called Cockta.  And in Scandinavia, they are still quite a popular traditional food.  In Sweden, it flavors a kind of mead called Rhodomel, and a traditional and seasonal soup called Nyponsoppa. They are also popular in homemade potpourris.

In the Americas, it's not just the hips that get used in food.  One of my favorite jellies of all time is the Cherokee Rose Petal jelly.  Of course, the hips are jellied too, sometimes with wild native grapes.  As seen above, local honey is made from roses; and roses also figure largely in some traditional Native designs.  Cherokee use roses, especially the large single white spring blossom of the "Cherokee Rose", as a design motif.  Shoshone in the northwest use the rose in traditional bead work.  Wide spread use of rose hips in curative teas, alone, or combined with other native herbs.  A "native marshmallow" is made by combining pounded rose hip with tallow and a sweetener and rolled into balls, stuck on the end of stick and roasted, just like real marshmallows; this is a traditional Abasaroke (Crow) recipe.  If the stinging hairs at the bottom are removed, they can be eaten fresh, which made them an important travel and hunting food.  In the pacific northwest they are put in all manner of soups and stews, and a very popular puree is used as a condiment, especially with seafood. They can also be used in a variety of baked goods.  Here is a list of recipes that rose hips can easily be used.  If you can't find them in a local herbal shop or ethnic grocery store, they can be ordered off the web from a variety of places.

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