FAIRBANKS - While you are filling your freezer with produce from your garden or the farmers market, be sure to schedule time to gather the wild foods available to us. From mid-August through fall is the time to get your fill of rose hips.
According to the Cooperative Extension DVD called “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty,” rose hips have 20 to 40 percent more vitamin C than oranges. Plus, 25 percent more iron, 28 percent more calcium and 25 times more vitamin A. They provide vitamins E and B, as well as selenium, phosphorus and a host of antioxidants. Finally, they have a lot of pectin, which is one of the water soluble fibers that lowers cholesterol.
Some folks gather the rose hips — the elongated, bright red fruit that forms after the flowering of wild roses — when they are very firm. Waiting until they are softer, after an initial frost, will result in a sweeter hip.
To clean rose hips, slice off the stem and blossom ends. Rinse and dry thoroughly and store in the fridge for up to a week. To freeze, spread them out on trays in the freezer and when they are rock solid, bag them up. They will keep for up to two years.
For juice, which can be used as a beverage or made into jelly or syrup, put six cups of hips and three cups of water into a pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain by putting the cooled mash into a cheesecloth sack that you hang off a spigot or some other contraption overnight, so all the juice can drip into a bowl.
Squeeze the sack and the juice will be cloudy, don’t squeeze and it will be clear. Both will taste the same, it is only a matter of personal preference. Freeze the juice or process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
For puree — necessary for fruit leather, marmalade, bread or cookies — bring four cups of rose hips and two cups of water to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and then press through a sieve or food mill to separate pulp from seeds and skins. Don’t be tempted to skip this step because the seeds have little prongs that can muck up your intestines. The first time you will have quite a bit of pulp left in the sieve. Add a half cup of water, bring to a boil, and sieve again. The puree can be frozen, but not canned.
Drying rose hips is a royal pain. After cleaning, slit them open and use a sharp knife to pry the seeds out. Once you’ve done that, and put band aids on all your fingertip stab wounds, spread the husks in a single layer on dehydrator trays or dry in the oven at 140 degrees for about six hours.
Here are a few rose hip recipes, courtesy of Cooperative Extension’s “Collecting and Using Alaska’s Wild Berries and Other Wild Products.”
Rose hip tea
Crush enough dried rose hips to equal 1 tablespoon of powder. Put it in a teapot and add boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and drink.
Rose hip syrup
Bring 4 cups rose hip juice and 2 cups sugar to a boil and boil for five minutes. Refrigerate. To keep long term, process in a boiling water bath for five minutes. Yield: 4 cups.
Rose hip marmalade
8 cups puree
6 cups sugar
Squeeze lemons, retaining the juice and peels. Slice the lemon rind very thin and cook in a small amount of water for 1 minute. Combine the puree, sugar, lemon juice and peels. Cook until the mixture is thick, about one hour. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Immediately pour marmalade into hot canning jars, leaving one-quarter inch headspace. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Yield: 9 cups.
Rose hip bread
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup water
2 cups puree
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 1/3 cups flour
Mix sugar, oil, eggs, spices and salt together. Add water, puree and baking soda. Gradually mix in flour. Pour batter into two lightly oiled 9-by-5-by-3 loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
Rose hip cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup raisins, optional
1 cup nuts, optional
Sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Cream sugar and shortening, and add eggs, puree and lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients, raisins and nuts and mix well. Drop by tablespoon on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack. Yield: 5 dozen.
Linden Staciokas is a freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com