Coming into fall at the farm, wild roses are bearing their showy fruits (hips, haws) in abundance. Harvesting rosehips is very simple, just walk up to a rosehip bush and pick the fruit off it’s stem! I’d recommend wearing gloves for this process so you don’t prick yourself on rose thorns. Not only is it easy, but it’s fun since you get a chance to see all kinds of wild critters and insects as you go, like this yellow-spotted tussock moth caterpillar I stumbled upon!
From root to tip wild rose bushes are a wonderfully useful plant that have been used for thousands of years by Indigenous Peoples of North America as both food and medicine.
Sources claim the roots can be made into an ointment for sore eyes (1), rose hip tea or syrup can help treat certain respiratory ailments (2), and their amazingly high vitamin C content (at least 20x more vitamin C per 100g than oranges) makes them an excellent immune system defense during cold season (3).
Rosehips are harvested when ripe; that being when they are a bright red to orange colour. Many online articles and blogs will advise that you should only pick the haws after the season’s first frost, but we just throw them in the freezer until we’re ready to use them, which achieves the same effect of breaking down the cell walls to provide more liquid when processing.
These healthful fruits are most simply steeped in hot water and strained to make tea, but they are easily made into cakes, syrups, jams, jellies, and preserves. However, your opportunities for cooking with rose hips are only limited by the extent of your own imagination!
We will be drying and freezing rosehips for use through the winter, but today we decided to use the rose hips in a water kefir soda.
Water kefir is a probiotic, effervescent ferment beverage the Avis’ have been experimenting with for some time now.
To make water kefir, you need to obtain water kefir grains and place them in a jar with water and sugar and let them ferment for roughly 2-3 days. The ratio you are aiming for is 1L of water to ¼ cup of sugar. We use well water and cane sugar with our water kefir.
The kefir grains (a mix of bacteria and yeast) will metabolize the sugar and convert it into lactic and acetic acid, simpler sugars, CO2, and ethanol, and leave you with a wonderfully sweet and bubbly beverage that is then mixed with a homemade tea for the second ferment.
The tea is where you can get creative with the flavour of your water kefir soda, and it is where the rosehips come into play for this recipe!
To make the tea we brought a large pot of water to boil with a handful of Tulsi (holy basil) leaves and another handful of mashed rosehips, and then let that cool over night. You can put whatever you want into the tea, but by using things with natural sugars like fruit and berries it will give the water kefir more food to digest and add more flavour to your soda.
The final product was delicious, and our kefir soda is but one example of how you can take advantage of this seasonally abundant resource!
Blog Contributed of Verge Grad and Volunteer, Ben Dunn.