My first priority as a forager is to enjoy the fresh air. Second is a good meal. Third—and not a distant third, mind you—is the inherent health benefits of wild foods. Nature will take care of us if we let her.
A walk along Lake Union in November can satisfy all three. True, my preference in outdoor recreation leans more toward howling wilderness, but for those of us living in the city, a brisk autumn stroll along the shore of an urban lake can be just the thing for bringing color to our cheeks and firing the synapses when more far-flung options are not in the cards.
And lo and behold: The route is dotted with colorful splashes of orange and red nestled among waist-high fall foliage. These fire-engine-colored globes are rose hips, the fruit of ornamental rose bushes that line the sidewalks around Lake Union and plenty of other Seattle parks, beauty strips and landscaped gardens.
In more bucolic settings, you might even find native rose hips, such as those of the Nootka rose. Whatever the species, rose hips are a tasty reminder of the beauty that graces both our wild woods and bustling street corners.
Rose hips are nature’s Emergen-C. They’re loaded with salubrious vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C.
I like to pick a bag full of rose hips after the first frost, when the hips are at their sweetest, and then cook them down into syrup, which I put up in jars for the winter flu season.
To make rose hip syrup, simply cover the hips with water and simmer until soft, then run through a food mill and again through cheesecloth to strain the juice. You can add sugar and spices to taste, and make the syrup as thin or thick as you like.
Depending on how you’re feeling, rose hip syrup can add a fruity twist to a fall cocktail or an immune boost against that pesky common cold.