The beautiful and fragrant rose is the most revered of flowers. Long a symbol of love and beauty, it gives the gardener more than a pleasant aroma and exquisite countenance. Rose hips are small fruits that follow the bloom and have several benefits. Rose hips are high in vitamin C, boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve arthritis joint pain. The gardener misses much who does not take the time to harvest the crop that follows the blossoms. Learning when and how to harvesting rose hips is easy with a little forethought.
Care of the Rose Bush
Bear in mind that rose hips are food and use care when treating the bush for pests and disease. Avoid chemicals and opt instead for nontoxic remedies. It may require research to find eco-friendly alternatives to the more easily obtained chemicals. These nontoxic cures for pests and diseases are becoming more popular as people become more health conscious. Deadheading is an accepted practice to keep the plant blooming and looking good. It is a practice to avoid if rose hips are desired. Deadheading removes the unsightly bloom but also the potential hip since the fruit forms behind the flower.
Good quality, sharp pruning shears are necessary. It is much easier to make sure clean cuts with sharp clippers than to struggle with shears that merely bend the branch. Protective clothing is another must- have to avoid bloody scratches from the numerous thorns. Wear strong gloves that thorns cannot penetrate. Safety glasses will protect the eyes as closed toed shoes or boots will safeguard the feet. Do not forget to wear long sleeves.
When to Harvest
It is easy to tell when to harvest rose hips. Begin to watch the bush in autumn for the changes that will signal harvest time. The hips will begin to turn color from green to orange, red or purple depending on the variety of rose. They will feel soft, but do not wait until they are wrinkled to harvest them. Flavor is enhanced by cold temperatures so wait until just after the first frost. Birds love rose hips so harvest at the first good opportunity. We have had several frosts, and the hips from our wild rose bush are just now ready to be carefully plucked from the amongst the thorns.
How to Harvest
Suit up and gather your shears and buckets to hold the harvested crop. Begin work on the outside of the bush clipping the closest hips. Continue around the bush gleaning the fruit that is easiest to reach. Working further inside the bush requires some thought and skill. Use care when reaching into the bush. Pull inner branches out to snip off the fruit.
Preparing for Storage
Remove the stem and blossom end of each rose hip. Discard any that are blemished or mushy. Rinse, drain and blot them dry. Cut each one in half and remove the seeds. They are now ready for further processing. Knowing when to harvest rose hips and gathering the bush’s bounty ensures that winter’s bleakness will be cheered by rose hip tea, jams and syrups.
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