I just discovered this gardener who grows an entire hedge of Rosa rugosa roses as an ornamental and edible barrier in the narrow strip of land between the street and the stream in front of her house! Lee Reich says in his captivating book A Northeast Gardener’s Year (Addison Wesley 62233) that this rose is extremely cold hardy (to minus 50 degrees Farenheit and tolerates salt, whether from ocean spray or road de-icing trucks. The plants, set two feet apart, create a sturdy hedge.
In the book he mentions that one fine day he walked past the hedge and saw a profusion of fruits staring out at him. The rose hips (or heps) as they are called, festoon the plants even as flowering continues.
They are lovely: the size of cherry tomatoes, orange red, shiny with a few bristles. He eats a few fresh hips and likes their refreshing, brisk flavor. But they are too seedy so they should be halved and spread out to dry in the sun or a warm oven, for later use in tea.
He says that you can take a cup of fresh hips and simmer them for fifteen minutes in a cup and a half of water, then allow to stand for 24 hours before straining. This makes a tasty juice to add to fruit cobblers, fruit drinks, and fruit soups (the latter a Scandinavian delicacy). The juice and the dried hips are also nutritious he reminds us. Fresh rose hips have about fifty times the concentration of vitamin C as fresh oranges!
Though all roses have these hips, it is the Rosa Rugosa which has the most amounts. It is also a very hardy rose and very lovely, with bright green crinkled leaves. The rose is sturdy and stands up to winter cold and summer heat. He says that it thrives in almost pure sand! Best of all you will not find black spot, mildew, or other maladies that afflict hybrid tea roses on rugosa roses!
The book is filled with cheering garden tales, tips and recipes and a good read for all gardeners and even those who do not garden.
pics and text: daksha