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Rose Hips: A Wild Alaskan Edible That Packs An Antioxidant Punch

September 12, 2011|Michelle Theriault Boots
Michelle Theriault Boots

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Golf-ball sized and tomato-red, rose hips are everywhere these days – in overgrown alleyways, urban forests and backyards around Southcentral Alaska.

But while Alaskans often have a finely-honed autumn routine of harvesting raspberries, blueberries and cranberries, the edible fruit of wild roses remains mysterious to many, says Leslie Shallcross, a home economist and professor at UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service.

“People let the moose and birds eat them,” says Shallcross.

Rose hips are indeed an important winter food source for animals. But don’t let them have all the fun. Dried, candied and transformed into everything from soup to jelly to tea, edible rose hips are nutritious, abundant and delicious.

What they are:

During the summer, wild roses bloom with delicate pink petals. As autumn approaches and blooms fade, rose “hips” swell in their place, turning orange and then red. The ripe hips have a flavor not unlike apples. In places too cold to grow citrus fruit, rose hips are an important alternative vitamin C source. In Sweden, nyponsoppa, or rose hip soup, is an everyday classic that’s even available in instant mix form at supermarkets.

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Why they’re good for you:

Wild roses are packed with high levels vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, B, E and K, calcium, iron and phosphorous. They are also rich in the antioxidant lycopene, also found in tomatoes. Studies show lycopene may protect against cancer.

Where to find them:

Rose hips come in two different varieties: smaller, oblong hips produced by wild plants and larger round hips produced by domesticated roses. Both are edible. Soft, ripe and red rose hips are ready for picking. Some experts advise waiting until after the first frost to pick. Wild varieties like Rosa aciculariso or R. nutkana (Nootka rose) are found around the state. You may also find varieties like the Sitka rose in home gardens. Be sure to avoid plants that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides.  

How to use them:

Shallcross recommends removing the stem, inner seeds and fibers with a sharp paring knife before processing. The fibers and seeds can irritate the stomach. Rose hips can be turned into everything from a vivid jelly to a tea or wine. Candied rose hips are a sweet, easy and unexpected garnish on desserts. For a complete list of rose hip recipes, contact UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service, which publishes a “Wild Roses” booklet that includes recipes for rose hip tea, drinks, jelly and candied hips.

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