Rose Hips: Nutrients, Uses, and Interesting Facts
A Beautiful and Useful Plant
Roses are beautiful and popular flowers. They are loved for their appearance, their fragrance, and the oil obtained from their petals. Rose oil has both culinary and cosmetic uses. After fertilization, the fower produces a bulbous structure that is often referred to as the fruit of the rose, or a rose hip. The hip is useful as well as attractive. It's nutritious and has a pleasant taste. Like the petals, it can be used to make an oil.
Rose hips can be eaten raw. They can also be cooked to make jams, jellies, syrups, soups, teas, and wines. Their seeds contain an oil that is popular in the cosmetics industry. This oil is known as rose hip oil, rose hip seed oil, or rosa mosqueta oil.
The hips are usually red or orange when ripe but may sometimes be purple or even black. The ones from wild roses are often considered to be the tastiest kind. All of the hips that I've eaten have a flavour that resembles the taste of apples.
Rose hips are best when freshly picked. Dried fruits are useful, too. They're often found in health food stores. Prepared products made from the fruits can also be bought in stores, but they can be made at home as well.
Parts of a Flower
Carpel and Pistil of a Flower
The stigma, style, and ovary make up a carpel of a flower. Some flowers have several carpels joined together, making a pistil. If a flower contains only one carpel, the carpel may be called a pistil.
Pollination and Fertilization
The female part of a flower, or the carpel, consists of three parts: a stigma that traps pollen grains, a long style leading from the stigma to the ovary, and the ovary itself. The ovary contains smaller structures called ovules. Each ovule contains an egg cell.
The male part of a flower is called the stamen. It consists of an anther, which produces pollen grains, and a stalk called a filament that attaches the anther to the flower. Pollen grains produce sperm nuclei.
A fruit develops after pollination and fertilization. During pollination, pollen grains land on the stigma of a flower. Each pollen grain produces a tube that grows through the style to the ovary. The pollen grain sends a generative nucleus into the tube. This nucleus divides into two sperm nuclei during its journey down the tube. The sperm nuclei reach the ovary and enter an ovule.
Each ovule contains an egg cell and an endosperm mother cell. The egg cell is fertilized by one of the sperm nuclei and develops into an embryo. The endosperm mother cell joins with the other sperm nucleus and then produces endosperm, a material that acts as food for the embryo. The overall process is known as double fertilization.
Fruits and Seeds
Fruit and Seed Adaptations
The ovule of a fertilized flower develops a tough coat, which protects the developing embryo. At this point, the ovule is known as a seed. The ovary loses its stigma, style, and petals and becomes a fruit.
The fruit is adapted in some way to distribute the seeds. For example, birds and other animals are attracted to rose hips and eat them. The seeds travel through an animal's digestive tract unharmed and are deposited with the feces in a new area, where they can (hopefully) germinate and grow into a new plant.
The Hypanthium and Achenes
Though this article uses the common terms of fruit (the hip) and seeds (found inside the fruit) with respect to roses, the terms aren't completely correct. The hip of a rose is really a structure called a hypanthium. It's produced from the floral cup that surrounds the multiple ovaries of the flower. The small and dry "seeds" inside the hypanthium are actually a type of dry fruit known as an achene. Each achene contains one seed. The terms "hypanthium" and "achenes" aren't used in everyday descriptions of the plant. I think the structure of rose flowers and fruits is interesting. though.
Roses belong to the plant family known as the Rosaceae. Many other edible fruits belong to this family, including apples, pears, apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
Vitamins C and A in Rose Hips
The best rose hips are those that have just been picked, since they retain the highest level of nutrients. A single fruit has only a small quantity of nutrients, but a handful or bowl of hips would be very valuable nutritionally.
Rose hips are rich in vitamin C when they're fresh. Unfortunately, the vitamin is a delicate nutrient and is destroyed by heat. While cooking rose hips can create tasty products, it also reduces their nutritional value. Heat used to dry the fruits can also destroy vitamin C. Another problem is that the vitamin is water soluble and leaches into the water used to cook the fruits. In addition, the vitamin is lost when the hips are stored.
Rose hips are also a good source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into the form of vitamin A that we need. Since the vitamin is fat soluble, its absorption is boosted if a small amount of a healthy fat is eaten at the same time as the nutrient.
Benefits of Vitamins C and A
Vitamin C Benefits
Vitamin C has many important functions in humans. Our bodies can't make vitamin C, unlike the case in most other mammals, so we must obtain it from our diet.
We need vitamin C in order to make collagen. This is a fibrous protein that is present in many structures in the body, including the blood vessels, skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, and gums. Another important function of vitamin C is to act as an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals, substances that are thought to contribute to aging and some diseases.
Research indicates that vitamin C may boost the activity of the immune system, help to heal wounds, reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, and improve the condition of the skin.
Vitamin A Benefits
Vitamin A supports healthy vision and the activity of the immune system. It's also necessary in order to produce and maintain healthy skin, teeth, mucous membranes, soft tissue, and bones. In the form of beta-carotene in food (but not in supplements), the vitamin may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Like vitamin C, beta-carotene is an antioxidant.
Other Nutrients in Rose Hips
Rose hips are a good source of manganese and fibre. They also contain a significant amount of vitamins E and K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and lycopene.
Lycopene is a red pigment that is also found in tomatoes. Like beta-carotene, it belongs to the carotenoid family of chemicals. Lycopene may help to lower the risk of some types of cancer, especially prostate cancer, but experiments have shown mixed results. Some experiments have shown that lycopene does reduce the chance of developing cancer while others have shown that it has no effect on cancer risk.
Rose Hips as Food
A rose hip consists of a thick outer layer surrounding a cavity containing seeds. A hip should be cut open and the seeds removed before the fruit is eaten. The seeds taste bitter and can sometimes irritate the mouth and digestive tract. The fruit itself can often taste lovely, however.
The hips of some roses taste better than others. Rosa rugosa reportedly has one of the best tasting fruits. The hips of this species are a rich red colour when they're ripe. The plant is native to East Asia, but it has been introduced to other areas and can be bought from plant nurseries.
Cultivated roses have edible hips (as long as the roses haven't been treated with pesticides), but the greatest number of fruits can be found on wild roses. It's enjoyable to pick the fruits of a wild rose bush and eat them right away, as long as they aren't too sour. Generally, the riper the hips, the sweeter their taste.
A Tea and a Jelly
A tea can be made from fresh or dried rose hips. One or two tablespoons of the fruits placed in hot water for about ten minutes makes a nice infusion. At the end of the brewing time, the hips should be removed and a sweetener added (if desired).
Some people prefer to remove the seeds from the hips before they make the tea. The seeds can be strained out if the hips burst, but they do have a bitter taste which may enter the tea.
Rose hip jelly can be made from the liquid in which hips are boiled, as shown in the video above. Some form of pectin will need to be added so that the liquid will gel. Chopped apples can provide the necessary pectin.
Collecting Rose Hips
Rose hips are quite easy to recognize, but if you go foraging it's important to be absolutely certain that you are picking rose hips and not another fruit that may be poisonous. It may be helpful to identify wild rose bushes when they have flowers and then wait for the fruits to form on the bushes later in the season. Expert foragers say that the hips taste best after the first frost.
Rose hips should be collected in an area that is free of pesticides and pollution. In addition, the area shouldn't be stripped of fruits. Some should be left to provide food for animals and to provide seeds that will grow into new plants.
Nature can be a wonderful source of food. It can also be deadly. When foraging for a particular plant or plant part, correct identification is essential.
Rose Hip Oil in Cosmetics
Rose hip oil (or rosehip oil) for cosmetic purposes is generally obtained from a rose with the scientific name Rosa rubiginosa. In the cosmetics industry, the substance is often known as rosa mosqueta oil. Chile is the major producer of the oil.
I eat rose hips, but I don't use their oil. Scientific studies of the oil's effects on the skin are hard to find, but it's a popular product. Proponents of rose hip oil claim that it has an excellent ability to fade scars (including surgical and acne scars) and is also useful for stretch marks, wrinkles (especially those caused by sun exposure), and areas of excess pigmentation. They say that it sinks quickly into the skin and that only a few drops are needed during each treatment.
Cold-pressed rose hip oil is reportedly the most effective type. It's orange in colour. It's important to differentiate between rose oil (made from the flower's petals) and rose hip oil (made from the fruit). Unlike rose oil, rose hip oil doesn't smell like roses. The aroma is described as "earthy" or "coffee-like".
A Nutritious and Useful Fruit
Some people don't realize that rose hips can be eaten and may not even notice them. If a gardener removes cultivated rose flowers as they start to die, the fruits may never develop. People who never take walks in nature may not notice wild rose fruits.
Missing out on the advantages of rose hips is a shame. They are highly nutritious fruits. They're also versatile and can be used in a variety of interesting ways. Eating them is not only enjoyable but may also help to maintain or improve our health.
- Pollination and double fertilization in flowering plants from Estrella Mountain Community College
- Morphological features of the rose family from Encyclopedia Britannica
- Nutrients in wild rose hips from SELFNutritionData (whose data is provided by the USDA, or United States Department of Agriculture)
- Rose hip information from WebMD
- Vitamin C health benefits from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University
- Vitamin A health benefits from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- The potential benefit of lycopene in prostate cancer from the NIH
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Do you recommend frozen rose hips for vitamin C if fresh ones are not available?
Nutrition experts say that freezing food preserves nutrients, including vitamin C. The short blanching period that occurs before the rapid freezing involved in the creation of many frozen foods destroys a small quantity of the nutrients. The food is still nutritious, though. If the unfrozen food contained a significant amount of vitamin C, the frozen version will, too. Regular cooking methods destroy a lot of vitamin C, however.
I’ve never read anything specifically about the nutrient level in frozen rose hips, but as in other food, their nutrients should be preserved during freezing.
© 2013 Linda Crampton