Both when you are prepping for a disaster and when you are in the middle of a survival scenario, finding food is a priority and a challenge. It becomes even more difficult during the winter when animals hunker down, and most plants go dormant for the winter.
That being said, there are certain plants that need to be harvested during the winter. Foraging for wild edibles requires a lot of knowledge, but plants like rose hips are an easy find in the winter. In this article we will cover where to find rose hips, how to harvest them, how to store them, and how to use them. This will get you more prepared for foraging the next few cold months.
Finding This Little Gems
Rose hips are the fruit produced by rose plants. Yes, these are the same roses that you might have in your landscaping bed out front. As long as they have not been sprayed with chemicals and you do not cut off the flower, even landscaping roses will produce hips. However, in most cases people are heading out into the wild to harvest these little gems.
To find rose hips you are obviously searching for wild rose plants. These can be found in any moderate climate from Southern Australia all the way to Northern Canada.
You just need to know where to look. Primarily you will find roses in open areas where they can get partial sunlight.
This includes fields, trails, roadsides, brush patches, and along the edges of clearings in the woods. They need some sun, but also like a little shade throughout the day. This balance where shady areas meet direct sun are perfect for roses.
Identifying Rose Hips
Rose hips form after the flowers lose their petals. In colder climates you can see them as early as August, and in warmer climates you can harvest them all winter long. You can find wild roses that are on vines and also in shrub form. They all have curved thorns. The leaves are elliptical with jagged edges and are opposite each other on the stem.
Their flowers are symmetrical and typically white or pink. Once the petals fall, the hips form in that spot. They are oblong fruits that are red or orange in color. They often have what look like hairs or strings coming out from the base of the fruit.
The fruit can be large and round or small and football shaped depending on the variety. For identification, try studying pictures of the leaves as this can distinguish the plant year-round. There are no poisonous look-alike plants for roses. In addition, there really is nothing else in nature that resembles rose hips. This makes identification relatively easy if you are new to foraging.
For harvesting, be sure your rose hips are red or orange. If they are still green, they are not ready to pick. The longer the fruit sits on the plant, the sweeter it gets.
Just after the first frost is a good time to look for them. If they are a little wrinkled, those are the fully ripened fruits. They should come off the plant with a little tug. If they are tough to remove, they are likely not ready to harvest.
It should be mentioned that roses themselves can be harvested for prepping and survival purposes. You can use garden shears to remove the blossoms and avoid hurting yourself on the thorns.
It is best to harvest rose blossoms just after they open up and are still young. Older mature rose blossoms do not work as well for our purposes. It is especially important that you know the roses have not been sprayed with chemicals if you want to harvest the blossoms.
The fruit from the rose plant can be eaten fresh for a nice boost in Vitamin C. They actually have one of the highest levels of Vitamin C of any plant found in nature. They are sweet and tart, much like their cousin the crab apple.
You can eat them fresh and whole for a quick snack. You can also just add the petals to a salad for a change in flavor and texture.
However, you need to cut them open and scoop out the seeds. The seeds have little hairs that can irritate your throat or stomach if consumed.
If you are infusing a dish or drink with rose hip flavor, just be sure to strain the liquid before consuming to get the seeds and hairs out.
You can add dried rose hips to baking projects like cookies, or you can reduce them down into a sweet jam. Rose hips can be dried and ground into flour.
You can also use them to infuse nutrients and flavor into honey, vinegar, oil, or drinks like whiskey or wine.
Medicinal Uses For Rose Hips
Rose hips do have medicinal qualities making them ideal for survival. In addition to the high levels of Vitamin C, they have tons of antioxidants. You can make them into a tea or cook them down into a syrup.
They also make a great moisturizer, so they can be added to soaps, lotions, or lip balm. Rose hips can help with urinary tract infections, diarrhea, cramps, the flu, or just to boost your immune system. Let’s face it… we could all use a boost right now.
They can help with heartburn if eaten raw or made into a tea.
The petals can be used for a healthful replacement for bandages on an open wound. The stems of the rose can even be peeled and eaten or stripped into cordage.
If you choose to harvest the rest of the plant, there are plenty of additional uses. The petals are great for your skin with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. The petals can be used for pretty much all of the same purposes as the hips such as infusing flavor and nutrients into other substances.
Preservation And Storage
You can eat rose hips fresh, cook them down into jams, add them to baking recipes, or infuse other products with them.
However, dried rose hips will last significantly longer. If you want to stockpile for prepping purposes, this is the way to go. Start by cleaning your rose hips and cutting off the step and blossom ends. Lay them out and let them dry for a few days. Then use a spoon to split them open and scoop out the seeds and hairs.
Once partially dried, spread them out on a baking sheet and set your oven on the lowest setting. Leave them in the oven for five to seven hours.
When done they should be completely dry and hard. When cool, put them in a food processor and pulse them until they are broken down.
You want them in small pieces, but not broken down into a powder. You can then transfer them to an air-tight container. If you store them in a cool, dry place they will last all year until you can harvest again. Just watch out for mold or insects.
As you can see, rose hips can offer a tasty treat. They can also provide lots of different health benefits. During the winter months it can be difficult to find a wild source of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Rose hips can provide a good solution for this problem. The beautiful part is that roses come back every year.
If you find a good patch of roses and harvest the hips, you should be able to go back to that same spot every year at the same time and harvest again. Really, rose hips are the ideal wintertime wild edible. They are easy to identify, nutritionally valuable, and can be found in most of the world. Now get out there and give it a try for yourself.
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