What has up to 20 times more vitamin c than oranges, is a powerful source of iron, and is hardy from zone 9 to zone 2? Yep, rose hips from the Rosa Rugosa. This is big, valuable news for the homesteader and prepper. It’s especially good news for locavores everywhere, with the possible exception of the arctic and antarctic circles. People living in those latitudes have their own unique set of issues that are way beyond my ability to advise on. I get cold just thinking about it.
I consider the Rugosa Rose to be one of nature’s true multitaskers. First, the delicate, aromatic flowers are beautiful and smell fantastic. I am told that the Japanese and Chinese use them regularly in potpourri. The blossoms are also outstanding bee and butterfly attractants, helping to ensure pollination in other parts of your garden. The bushes themselves will grow, over time, to become virtually impregnable hedges, up to 6 feet in height and equally as thick. Imagine a living wall around your garden or property that looks great, smells great, keeps out unwelcome visitors and provides you with a limitless supply of vitamins? Is that value for money or what? They are available online and from most garden centers.
The biggest value in Rosa Rugosa, is it’s fruit. All roses produce rose hips, the bulbous seed pod at the base of a rose blossom, but the Rosa Rugosa hips are prolific, nice sized and have more vitamins and minerals per ounce than most other varieties. As the flower dies, if the bush is not ‘headed’, the hips will form. In late summer and early autumn, they start to turn red. The first frost will bring out maximum sweetness.
Harvesting Rugosa hips is simple, but not easy. Imagine picking blackberries if the canes had fifty times more thorns. That’s what Rugosa Roses are like. To harvest, it’s best to wear leather or canvas gloves (unless you have gauntlets from an old suit of armor handy). Use pruning shears or something similar to snip off the shooter marble size fruit. That’s all there is to it.
The hips can be frozen or dried like most other fruit. Rose hips make great teas, syrups and jams. The teas are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin c and iron. There are plenty of other trace minerals as well. Here’s a link to demonstrate how to make rose hip tea. Just think, all the vitamin c filled fruit you’ll ever need and not a citrus tree in sight. That is what I call self sufficiency.