Edmonton’s ravines and river valley are bursting with an overlooked food source; rose hips. The fall landscape is dotted with the bright fruits of the rose plant, which hang in clusters from the ends of prickly rose branches, in brilliant jewel tones of crimson and orange.
Free and local
You won’t find rose hips in grocery stores or even at the farmers’ market (except maybe in jelly form), but they grow abundantly throughout Edmonton’s natural spaces and backyards. Both cultivated and wild rose hips are edible, though the wild ones are considered superior in flavour. Only forage in areas away from busy roadways. If you’re picking cultivated rose hips, make sure the plant hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals. Rose hips are best collected after a light frost, which sweetens them.
Rose hips are one of the richest sources of Vitamin C: Three raw rose hips are equivalent to a whole orange. They are also high in other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Nyponsoppa, or chilled rose hip soup, is a popular cold and flu remedy in Sweden. During the Second World War, when food supplies were scarce in Great Britain and northern Europe, 500 tons of rose hips were collected, made into syrup and distributed as a nutritional aid by the Ministry of Health.
Mind the seeds
As rose hips are full of furry seeds and little hairs that can irritate the digestive tract, some people cut them in half and scrape out the seeds with a small spoon.
What to expect
The flavour of rose hips is very unique: Tangy and tart, with floral overtones and an intriguing nuttiness from the seeds. They also contribute a vibrant, eye-popping orange hue to dishes.
From jelly to vinegar
Rose hips are most often used to make jelly or infused as tea, but they have many other culinary uses. Infuse them in apple cider vinegar or olive oil for an interesting alternative to regular vinegar or oil; mash and dry the flesh (separated from the seeds) into fruit leather; simmer and strain fresh hips to extract the juice, then simmer with sugar or honey to make syrup for cocktails or sauces; or even ferment fresh rose hips to make homemade wine.
TIP: It’s much easier to use them fresh or dry them whole and crush them, and then strain the finished product through a fine mesh sieve and then a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
Rose Hip Soup (nyponsoppa)
recipe by Ben Staley of Alta & Alder Room
200 g dried rose hips, crushed
100 g honey
10 g arrowroot powder, mixed with 75g cold water
cultured cream (creme fraiche), lightly whipped
Simmer rose hips and water in a saucepan for 45 minutes. Process in a blender on high until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into another saucepan. Add honey and arrowroot slurry. Simmer for five minutes. Add water until the desired consistency is achieved. Reserve in airtight containers in the fridge until chilled, and then finish with cultured cream.