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. The fruit of the rose, which is known as a rose hip, is useful as well. 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.
Rose hips are usually red or orange when ripe but may sometimes be purple or even black. The hips from wild roses are often considered to be the tastiest kind. All the ones that I've eaten have a flavour that resembles the taste of apples.
Rose hips are best when freshly picked. Dried rose hips are useful, too. They're often found in health food stores. Prepared products made from rose hips 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 either a pistil or a carpel.
Pollination and Fertlization
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, such as a rose hip, 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
The ovule of a fertlized flower develops a tough seed 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.
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. One little rose hip has only a small quantity of nutrients, but a handful or bowl of hips would be very valuable nutritionally.
Rose hips are very rich in vitamin C when they're fresh. Unfortunately, Vitamin C is a delicate nutrient. The vitamin is destroyed by heat. While cooking rose hips can create tasty products, it also reduces the nutritional value of the hips. Heat used to dry rose hips can also destroy vitamin C. Another problem is that vitamin C is water soluble and will therefore leach into the water used to cook rose hips. 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. Hips contain other forms of vitamin A in addition to beta-carotene. Since vitamin A is fat soluble, absorption of the vitamin is boosted if a small amount of a healthy fat is eaten with the vitamin.
Health 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 to produce and maintain healthy skin, teeth, mucus 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. Beta-carotene is also 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 lower the risk of some types of 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 lycopene 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 hip is eaten. The seeds taste bitter and can sometimes irritate the mouth and digestive tract. The hip 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.
Culivated roses have edible hips (as long as the roses haven't been treated with pesticides), but the greatest number of hips can be found on wild roses. It's enjoyable to pick hips off 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.
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.
How to Make Rose Hip Jelly
A Jelly and a Tea
A tea can be made from fresh or dried rose hips. One or two tablespoons of hips 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 rose 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 rose hips. Some should be left to provide food for animals and to provide seeds that will grow into new plants.
Nature is a wonderful source of food. It can also be deadly. When foraging for a particular plant or plant part, correct identification is absolutely 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 oil is often known as rosa mosqueta oil. Chile is the major producer of rose hip oil.
I eat rose hips, but I don't use rose hip oil. Scientific studies of its effects on the skin are hard to find, but it's a popular product.
The 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 the oil 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 hips may never develop. People who never take walks in nature may not notice wild rose hips.
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 the hips 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
- Nutrients in wild rose hips from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)
- Rose hip information from WebMD
- Lycopene information from WebMD
- Vitamin C health benefits from the University of Maryland Medical Center
- Vitamin A health benefits from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Linda Crampton