Wild Edible Wednesday!
Welcome back to Wild Edible Wednesday. Each week we take one plant, commonly found in most areas of the US, and delve into the edible and medicinal properties. While this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, I hope that it blesses you with a little know-how, and broadens your views on what is a weed, and what is a "wild edible".
This week, we are focusing on one of the most beautiful, and most invasive, flowering plants found in pastures and along fences and forest edges...
The wild "Floribunda" or "nearly Wild" rose.
Now rose enthusiasts will argue that the Floribunda is actually a group of multi-petaled roses commonly found in nurseries and rose gardens, not in the wild. And they are right. Sort of. Those roses have all been cross pollinated and hybridized over generations to create beautiful specimens. However, they had to start from somewhere. That somewhere, is the wild rose. For our purposes today, we will focus only on the WILD version of the Floribunda, but keep in mind that some of the properties we will discuss are still found in the cultured varieties, only in very small doses.
The wild rose is an excellent plant to forage since most farmers and ranchers despise it and try every method to remove it from their fence lines. With that in mind, be very wary of where you harvest from, avoiding any plants that may have been sprayed with herbicide. Offering to cut the stalks prior to spraying might be a great way to get to know your farming neighbors! Obviously, the best plants are the naturalized ones at the forests edge. I cut mine back late each fall, just like the nursery varieties, and they grow back in abundance the next spring. I also give them a "haircut" about halfway through the season, because driving under them with a mower wearing a full suit of armor is not an option. That, in fact, is where we will start this discussion.
Wear gloves. I cannot stress this enough. Gloves, long sleeves, and long handled loppers are the safest, most efficient way to trim the bushes. Since it is now mid-Autumn, let's focus on what's available now, then I will give you more pointers on what to look for in the spring. Right now, the wild roses probably look like this...
Those lovely little "berries" are actually called rose hips. You might not see rosehips when growing nursery roses, because most growers tend to prune the faded rose blossoms down to the next stem node to encourage more blooms. If left on the stem, a seed pod forms, which resembles a tiny crab-apple, and has a slightly tart taste. The trick is to wait until the pods form, then harvest before the birds do! But why would I want to eat rose seed pods? In the simplest of terms...VITAMIN C.
Per 100g, rosehips contain 1150-2500mg of vitamin C. Oranges contain 53mg, and kiwis 120mg. They are cold and flu seasons best deterrent!!!
graphic courtesy of http://rosehipfarm.co.za
So how do you get that great benefit? First, let's go back to our pruning. Now that we have lopped off a bunch of branches, I like to lay the branches out on a flat surface and trim off the tiny stems containing the rosehips. Once they are all removed, the large stems can be composted, or if you are really feeling froggy, they can be re-rooted in moist potting mix and a 5-gallon bucket. I have no need for that because they grow in abundance on our property, but some of you may find that a good winter project. So with gloves still on, take each tiny stem and pop off the rosehips, collecting them in a separate container until you have an ample supply. Now, obviously, you do not have to cut the large branches, and can instead just harvest them from the plant, but I am saving you many, many bloody scratches by doing it this way.
Rinse your rosehips with cool water, then spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and quick freeze for later use. At this point you have a few options. Rose hip tea is the best use, and provides the most benefit. However, the tiny seed hairs can be irritating both going in and coming out, if you know what I mean. So I have found that crushing them, then steeping them in hot water for 10-15 minutes, cooling for an hour to room temp and straining the tea through a flour-sack towel is the best option for completely removing any irritants. I then pour that tea into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out, put them in a zipper lock bag, label and refreeze. The cubes can be added to any drink, hot or cold, for an immediate immune boost of vitamin C.
Okay, but what about the flowers?
Glad you asked.
Rose petals are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-viral, a digestive aid, natural sedative, and chock full of vitamins. Besides that they smell pretty and they taste good too. Adding them to syrups and jams boosts the flavor intensity and adds beneficial vitamins. Rose petal tea with honey and lemon helps coughs, colds and flu. Both rose petal tea and rosehip tea help treat bronchial infections. They help remove toxins, excess fluids, and help to drain the lymph nodes. Applying rose water to the skin promotes circulation of the tiny capillaries just below the surface, and can sooth eye infections when used as an eye flush. (Use only chlorine free water when making rose water). So by all means, harvest those rose petals when they are fresh in the spring, preferably in early morning when the moisture content is high.
Now we know roses don't bloom all year. So, how do we preserve them? 3 ways - dehydrate, oil, and tincture. There are many wonderful online sources to tell you how to use these preservation methods. For today, we will concentrate on dehydrating or drying the petals. I will link two articles at the end, one is a "blog" type article giving all the health benefits of dried rose petals, the other is a scientific research paper. Both agree that dried petals are still VERY beneficial.
To dry the petals, place them individually on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels, and place in a warm area away from dust and breeze. I have found the oven with only the light on is an excellent choice. This method can take 12-24 hours, and the petals will retain some of their color. You can also place them in a dehydrator with fine mesh screens at the lowest setting for 4-6 hours. Although they will lose most of their color, they will not lose any significant medicinal benefits. Once dried, simply store the petals in a dark, cool area in clean glass jars with tight fitting lids. The dried petals can be used in soups, salads, teas, soap making, rose water, or sachets.
I do think it is important to add this disclaimer, which applies to all herbal remedies. They are not once and done remedies. They are not your OTC drugs that begin to work within minutes of taking them. Herbal remedies only work when taken repeatedly. For instance, an herbal tea will be soothing simply because it is tea. If you drink that same herbal tea every 2-3 hours, the remedies start kicking in. Your body has to absorb that herb over time to reap the benefits.
That's it for today's wild edible. Hope it made your day a little rosier! Personally, I feel we really "rose" to the occasion. Okay, I'm done.
Happy farming everyone!
The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies, Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.,