The wild rose may be the provincial flower of Alberta, but it is found across almost all of the Midwest and western parts of North America. Its pale pink to bright mauve flowers are one of the earliest summer blooms, and one of the most enduring sights throughout June, July and August, giving way only to the red blush of rose hip bulbs in late summer and early fall. The fragrance of these sweet roses draws insects, birds and humans alike. Yet, the wild rose grows predominantly in marginal soils and headlands or bush tree lines, and offer branches with irritating small prickly thorns.
Aside from its appeal as a flower and summer braggart, the rose is a great find for the avid wild harvester, with its flower petals and rose hips providing great medicinal, nutritional and cosmetic benefit.
Last year, for example, I crushed a pound of petals and make an infusion, then blended the alcohol-based scented mix with gelatine. My wife enjoyed this homemade soap, finding it a wonderful skin stimulant, an aromatic cleanser and a great boost to her complexion.
Because it is a "dry" oil, the skin soaks it up quickly. Being naturally antiseptic, it is great for irritated skin and even for treatment of mild scar tissue. Unfortunately, unless frozen, rose petals so not store well, and will quickly turn rancid in heat.
Of course, rose petals make a wonderful potpourri when dried, using a dehydrator. Sun-drying squeezes all of the colour from rose petals, rendering them quite unattractive.
Rose hips make a wonderful tea, or a great spice or supplement to some meats.
To make rose hip tea, grind the dried hips in a small coffee bean grinder, then make an infusion by steeping for ten minutes in boiled water. To eliminate the unpleasant ground and remnants, use a cheesecloth bag (available at craft stores). Tea balls do not filter enough of the fine seed within the rose hip. To dry the hips, place in full sun on a screen for several days, or use a dehydrator for 10-12 hours. They will keep for over a year in a plastic sealed container!
Nutritionally, rose hips are an excellent source of Vitamin C. They can be used fresh or dried, and even preserved or made into a jelly, jam or sauce. Rose hips go well with wild meats, add great taste to stews or soups, and can even be made into pies (although I recommend using only ¼-1/3 rose hips with other berries).
Medicinally, rose hips are used by those suffering with joint pain, osteoarthritis, kidney or bladder infections and even diarrhea. Rose hips are used to treat cardiovascular disease, and contain known anticarcinogens.
Because roses grow so abundantly, they, like other common wild plants such as dandelion and cattails, frequently are overlooked as a great natural remedy or food source, yet offer year-round relief and nourishment. The rose hips, unless captured by scavenging birds, often will be found in early spring, having overwintered the harshest conditions and deepest snows. Anything that tough must, it seems, be good for you!
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