"Check out all of those hippies!" I excitedly exclaimed while eating takeout sushi at Marine Drive Park in Bellingham the other day.
Pat looked over and chuckled when he realized what I was actually pointing to.
Nope, I wasn't referring to a group of colorfully-dressed countercultural folks. I was referring to the plethora of plump, ruby-colored fruits hanging from some nearby bushes. I was referring to. . . Rose hip-pies! AKA Rose haws, the fruits of the rose plant!
I get excited whenever I spot rose hips for a few different reasons: they were one of the first wild fruits that I harvested when I was a student at Wilderness Awareness School; they are full of Vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; they are typically the only wild edible fruits that linger on their branches throughout the fall/early winter around here; and I simply love the smell and taste of rose-flavored anything.
Today I am feeling inspired to share with you the first recipe that I learned to make with rose hips: Rose Hip Infused Honey. This simple and sweet concoction offers an easy way to incorporate nutritious wild foods into your family’s meals, and it makes a really nice gift for the upcoming holidays.
Making rose hip infused honey can be a fun activity to do with your little ones as well. Harvesting any wild edible, especially brightly colored wild fruits such as rose hips, is truly a child's passion. Inspiring children to engage in outdoor time is practically effortless whenever I preface the journey with: ”Let’s go outside and pick wild things that we can eat!!!” This is why we consider wild edibles to be a “motivating species”. They motivate all of us to get outside! Even on a cold, wet day like today!
So throw on your rain jacket, get your kiddos all geared up, and come journey with me to the lands of wild roses! Don’t forget to grab a basket or a bag for collecting.
Right now I’m spotting wild rose bushes quite easily since many of them still have quite of few of these ripe red fruits. Roses typically like to hang out on the edges, where the forest meets a field or clearing.
Here in western Washington, there are 3 native species of wild roses: Nootka, Bald-hip, and Clustered Wild Rose. While I won’t be discussing the distinguishing features of each of these species in this blog post, I encourage you to check out these plant ID cards created by Starflower Foundation if you are curious. They are an incredible resource for identifying many native plants of WA, including our local wild rose species.
I assume that most folks are familiar with the spiky stalks and toothed leaflets that are common to all roses. Please be 100% certain about the identification of a plant before harvesting it for consumption. If you live in the Bellingham area and would like some in-person mentoring on plant identification, feel free to contact us!
Once you have confidently identified some rose bushes, harvest the rose hips that are deep red in color and are just a bit soft. Avoid the ones that are really mushy and have dark spots on them, as they are past their prime (perhaps the birds will still enjoy them?).
All rose hips are edible, but I must give you a fair warning before you sink your chompers right into them: Rose hips contain numerous hairy seeds that can irritate your digestive tract when consumed. So if you don't want an itchy butt, don't eat the seeds!
If you happen to accidentally eat a couple of seeds here and there, it’s okay. Just avoid consuming them in significant quantities.
The fleshy exterior of the rose hip is where all the yumminess lives. Take a nibble by gnawing on the outer flesh of the hip with your front teeth like a squirrel. Or, whittle the flesh away from the seeds with your fingernail and enjoy. How does it taste with your eyes closed? How do your kiddos like them?? (Most of our students will try just about any wild edible at least once ;-) ). Thank you roses, for this lovely forest treat!
Now that you have collected a good bunch of rose hips for the honey, it’s time to process them. But first. . . take a few moments for a messy tromp through some mud and puddles with your family. Ahhh. . . such good medicine!
Alright, now I’m going to show you two different ways to make this honey. One way is a bit more time-consuming than the other:
The Slower Way to Make Rose Hip Infused Honey
Over the past 9 years that I have spent hanging out with plant people and wildcrafting enthusiasts, I’ve gleamed a few pieces of wisdom that have made life a bit easier when it comes to processing wild foods. One of those pieces of wisdom is this: the freezer is your friend, use it to your advantage!
Want to save some time when separating the outer rose hip flesh from the hairy seeds? Freeze ‘em first!
(And check out how the freezer helped us save time when making Elderberry Syrup if you are interested!)
Step 1: Bag up your rose hips and put them in the freezer for a few hours.
Step 2: Remove hips from freezer. If you have larger hips, cut each one in half and scoop out seeds. For smaller hips, simply "peel" away the outer flesh from the seeds using your fingers (I have found that this technique works quite well with smaller rose hips that have been partially thawed after freezing).
Note: This step can take a little while. Might as well throw on some music while doing this! Pat and I chose our favorite rose-inspired “hippie” tunes for this occasion. We rocked out to “Must Have Been the Roses” by the Grateful Dead and “Blood Red Roses” by Max Creek ;-)
This is a also a great time to steep a handful of those rose hips in hot water for some tea. Throw in a few cedar fronds for some forest flavors while you are at it!
Step 3: Allow de-seeded rose hips to dry fully. Air dry, use a dehydrator, or arrange the hips on a tray and put them in the oven set to a very low temperature with the door slightly ajar. If using the oven, check on the hips regularly to make sure that they don’t burn.
Note: Some folks choose to skip this step and use the fresh rose hips in their honey. However, the water content in fresh rose hips might cause the honey to ferment more easily. It may also invite the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria (which can produce a a toxin that may cause the life threatening illness known as botulism). I like to err on the side of caution, so I suggest that you dry your rose hips first. But feel free to choose your own adventure here.
Step 4: Place dried rose hips in a jar and cover to the top with honey (you may need to warm the honey slightly if it isn’t liquid enough for pouring). Stir. Cover jar with a lid and allow honey to infuse for at least one week before using. For a more potent honey, infuse for longer.
Step 5: Strain rose hips from honey using a fine mesh strainer, or leave hips in the honey indefinitely! Add to teas, spread on toast or muffins, or eat by the spoonful to soothe a sore throat.
The Busy Momma (or Papa) Method of Making Rose-Hip infused Honey
Step 1: Allow freshly picked whole rose hips to dry fully, either through air-drying, using a dehydrator, or using the oven method (see above).
Follow Steps 4-5 above.
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P.P.S.- Looking for more ways to share nature with your Family? Sign up for Deer and Fawn Days at Fairhaven Park in Bellingham.
P.P.P.S.- Does your child love to spend time in nature. . .building forts, climbing trees, tromping in puddles, and playing games? Would you love for your child to connect even more deeply with natural world through practicing earth skills, and learning about wild plant identification, animal tracking, bird language, etc? Check out our Forest Kindergarten and Homeschool Enrichment Program!