November and December are the time to gather organic slug and snail deterrent for next summer's garden. Autumn winds will have rattled the sweetgum trees and loosened their spiky seed pods to the ground. Homeowners are obliged to rake them up from walkways and lawns as they can trip up pedestrians. Why not save them to protect tender seedlings? Sweetgum trees are native to the southeastern states but are planted in Oregon as an ornamental landscape tree. The lovely five-pointed leaves turn red, orange, and burgundy in autumn. The seed pods, given unpleasant names such as "ankle turners" and "porcupine eggs," are problems for landowners. They cause lumps in the lawn as they don't decay quickly. These troublesome sticklers are treasures for organic gardens.
As cold weather creeps back into Oregon, the settling temperatures help develop the fruit of roses in our own backyards. This fruit is a sweet treat called rose hips. Rose hips have had a place on the dinner table for generations.
The best part of having rose hips in the kitchen is the generous dose of vitamin C they offer. Even today, pharmacies sell vitamin C tablets that boast of their rose hip content. Rose hips have more vitamin C to offer than ascorbic acid. Plus, they’re high in iron. The key to processing iron in the body is to couple it with vitamin C. For people who battle anemia, rose hips are a treasure trove of nutrition.
Rose hips are easy to harvest. Wait until the hips turn a deep red and twist them between your finger and thumb until the fruit comes off easily in your hand. Then simply clean and air dry the fruit. Soon, it’ll be ready to nibble. Only gather rose hips that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or aren’t growing near toxic areas like roads.The best tasting rose hips come from Apothecary Rose, Dog Rose, Damask Rose, and Rugosa Rose. Wild roses are a delightful treat to roll between your teeth while hiking. Briar Rose has an extra advantage as the leaves have a tangy apple scent that’s been enjoyed by the English as a tea in years past.
Large rose hips can be collected by snipping the ripened fruit from the stalk. Wash the fruit gently. Cut the rose hip in half and scoop out the fuzzy seeds. Dry the rose hips on a cookie sheet in the oven, food dryer, or toaster oven (set to 200 degrees) until their texture is leathery. Check the rose hips regularly so they don’t burn.
Try drying rose hips on a string. Using a sewing needle and thread, pierce each hip through the center of the fruit like beads. Be certain to provide a little space between the fruit to prevent spoilage and hang the string somewhere away from sunlight and moisture. In a few days, the rose hips are dry and ready to enjoy as tea. For best results, allow the hips to steep in hot water for several minutes until the tea turns a deep, delicious red. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your harvest.
Storing Rose Hips
Store rose hips in a tightly sealed and labeled container away from light for up to one year.