Rose Hips- How to forage and use rose hips in your everyday life

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I like big hips and I cannot lie…

Finally, I appreciate big hips!

Apparently Google does not appreciate wit and innuendo. As such, I try to clarify the post content in the title and use the subtitle for my own fun. I do this for you, darling, just because I want to make it easier for you to find this information that you so desperately need. I am always thinking of how to make it easier for you, dearest reader. I suspect that in this relationship, I like you better than you like me. I’m okay with that.

Let us glorify big hips!!! Yes, rose hips. Those glorious late fall to winter last bits of free food you can forage. They are found almost everywhere except Antarctica (sorry, you poor scientists and adventurers) and you can even grow your own. Best part, they show up just for doing nothing! If you have a rose bush and do not cut the roses then once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, the rose hips arrive. They supposedly are best after a frost. I cannot validate that at this time because we had a freak snow in September up here in my new home of the Northwest which interrupted my experiment of trying rose hips before and after frost. Oh well, there is always next year.

The fruit and seeds of the rose, the rose hip is bright red when ripe. Usually.

In my former southern home I always cut my flowers. In part to bring in for enjoyment and in part to prune the rose bush and encourage more growth. This cutting prevented the formation of the hips to grow but, down on the southern coast hip foraging would have occurred around February rather than the October to December up here. Whatever the timeframe in your area, try going au naturel with your flowers this season. By that I mean do not spray them with any pesticides or fungicides and let the flowers bloom, then die on the plant. After those lovely petals are finished (and you should harvest them for potpourri and tea, by the way), the hips will form.

Why should you care about rose hips? Lordy! So many reasons! The first being that they taste good! Next, they have oodles more vitamin C than an orange and then they add in all those bioflavonoids that are super-uber good for you! Finally, they might be able to enhance skin tone and lessen stretch marks. (initially there was an exclamation point but it seemed a little too manic and I do not want to be the Richard Simmons of rose hips) Interestingly, rose hips don’t taste like roses. To me they have more of a melon taste that is quite refreshing for so late in the year. It is like a little vacation to Mexico in the winter. And when you concentrate the flavor in a rose hip syrup it just might make your eyeballs roll up in your head a little bit.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “Hello, I am not some hippie foraging queen or Martha Stewart who grows my own wheat just to make pizza.” And I am here to tell you that actually it is Karen Bertelson who grows her own wheat for pizza. Also, you do not have to be that “into the wild” in order to enjoy the fullness of rose hips. Plenty of people make tons of stuff from them that you can buy if you just don’t have it in you to make your own rose hip face oil or rose hip tea. So no excuses. Treat yo-self!

 

Written here, though, is how to forage and also how to use rose hips. Find them, grow them, buy them. It no mattah how you get them (but don’t steal them, for God’s sake) just begin to incorporate these powerhouse fruits into your daily life.

Firstly, if you are going to grow or forage for hips, wear gloves. Remember the thorns. If only one or two rose hips were sufficient, I’d forgo the gloves in a heartbeat. The truth is that you will need quite a few of these little guys and if you do not wear protective gloves you will get so scratched up you will be able to count your heartbeats as it pumps blood out of your hands and wrists. The rose hip oil can heal many wounds but why test it this way?

Next, wait until a really cold spell hits the hips for a night. Preferably something below freezing according to all the old people who tell tales on such things. Maybe I will do some research to see if anything has been published on vitamin content of rose hips pre and post freezing but let us not tarry on such at this time. Once you have had a cold spell, don those gloves and grab a container of some sort. I have used my jacket and also my hat as containers when out for a walk in the woods and stumbling on a bush with very large hips on it. Just can’t pass that by! But it is better to have something like a little bucket or bag that is impervious to rosebush thorns. Just pick the rose hips and put them in the bag.

Avoid any that are rotten-looking or are a pale pink. Ripe rose hips should be red, for the most part anyway. Sometimes a bush will make orange-ish hips and you can tell if they are ripe by picking and giving a squeeze. They shouldn’t be absolutely rock-hard. Maybe they will have a tiny bit of give or maybe they will be totally ripe and squish out a smidgen of sweet goodness like this. Do not over-squish or the hairs and seeds will come out. You don’t want those hairs, they are the key ingredient in itching powder.

Once they are home, you have to decide how many will become tea, how many will become an amazing skin oil, and how many will become a delicious syrup. I can’t help you in this department because I love all of them. All I can say is try a bit of each and see what calls to you.

For a quick and easy shopping if you already cut all your roses and can’t wait til next year, here are links to the items I recommend for tea, syrup, and oil so you can buy them. If you follow these links and make a purchase on Amazon, I will get a small commission yet it will not cost you anything extra. This way you can enjoy all the benefits of rose hips without waiting . Also, you should plan next year’s garden to allow for rose hip collection.

For tea you must dry the rose hips completely and then remove the fine hairs inside of them. Those hairs, by the way, are the main ingredient in that stupid practical joke itching powder. I recommend avoiding these hairs. I have dealt with them in two ways. First I sliced each hip in half and used a tiny spoon to scrape out all the hairs and seeds. Then I dried the remaining hips and crushed to make tea and syrup. Getting impatient with this process, I tried a new method which sped things up dramatically by using my Vitamix to crush the dried hips. Then I went outside and sifted the hips through a fine sieve to remove the ichy hairs. This technique was my favorite and made a lovely tea as well. Below is the picto-recipe

For the delicious rose hip syrup you need to cook the rose hips in water and then add sugar or honey at the end. Again, I did this in two ways, first by removing all the seeds and hairs and then second by filtering the hips through a paper towel or coffee filter. This syrup is outrageous, concentrating all the superb yumminess of the hips into a thick and delicious melon syrup full of healthy vitamins. I use this syrup to sweeten tea, as a flavoring agent in sparkling water, and cocktails. This is not rose water like used in some Indian foods, this is rose hip syrup. Both are delish but only one tastes like roses.

And if you want to get really fancy, you can make your own rose hip oil. This oil is purported to have amazing rejuvenating properties for skin. What I notice is that my skin is brighter when I use it. The Vitamin C in rose hip oil is reported to encourage cellular turnover in a manner more gentle but similar to those retinoic acid creams and without the redness and peeling. You can buy rose hip oil online here but making your own is pretty easy. It is recommended to keep the oil in a dark glass container. I couldn’t find one so I used clear glass. Since my oil is kept in a dark cabinet in a dark room, I am not too concerned with light degrading the Vitamin C. You make your own call on this. As a person working towards minimalism I must learn to make do with what I have on hand and educate myself about what I really and truly need versus what I want. (By the way, I want everything, especially if it is purple.)

Making the syrup and the oil use similar steps. The only difference is that you will put the rose hips into water when making syrup and into oil when making oil. You can use any oil you like but my favorite is avocado oil. Yep, the kind you use for cooking. It is great for hair, skin, and sauteed veggies. Okay, one other difference in making rose hip oil versus rose hip syrup is that for the oil you will soak the hips in the oil overnight at a very low temperature to preserve the Vitamin C. For making rose hip syrup you can overight soak or heat the hips in water at a simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain, return to heat and add sugar or honey and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. I’ve done 1/2 to 1 part sugar to 2 parts rose hip water.

I sure hope you will give rose hips a try in one or all of their many forms! There are even more things you can do, like make jelly or wine. If you have done that, let me know! And let’s continue to see the world through rose-hip-colored glasses.

Chanterelles!

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How To Identify and Cook Chanterelle Mushrooms And Be Confident You Won’t Poison Yourself

Chanterelles have false gills
Golden chanterelles and golden sunlight on the forest

Ah, life in the Pacific Northwest. I love it out here. The summer weather is so mild with only a few days that get into the outliers of high temperatures. Unlike my former home on the Gulf Coast, there are definite seasons and finally I can not only enjoy but come to love summer. Gentle breezes let you wear a light T-shirt and shorts and open-toed shoes. You can decide to go for a walk and just heading out the door without having to pile on layers of coats and socks and shoes with laces. A PNW Summer gets me and forgives my tendency to wear inappropriate shoes and forget my hat.

I headed to our little peninsula paradise in mid-September. As I made my way around the tree-lined lake and saw the leaves starting to turn yellow and red, my heart sank a little. I am not yet ready for fall and I dread the onslaught of winter. My blood isn’t thick enough yet or whatever it is that lets some people survive icy mornings without batting an eye. As I pulled into our forested driveway my heart was heavy knowing the sun would soon not be seen over the tree line and the birds would not be singing and I would be once again ensconced in many, many layers of binding clothes.

But wait, what golden light on yonder forest floors breaks?

Oh. My.

Chanterelle mushroom grows on forest floor under hardwood trees.
Chanterelle growing on forest floor

It is the beautiful harbinger of fall around here. The chanterelle. And they are just beginning to poke their lovely heads up.

Now where I come from there are not many mushrooms. Of course, in a metropolis you are not going to find much in the way of foraging at all. All that lawn mowing and green grass chemicals are not good for wild food. When the don introduced me to morel hunting in early spring, I was amazed! All this earthy umami deliciousness was available right outside the door of our little house in the woods? All one had to do was take a lovely stroll in the woods and look around. Morels are a bit harder to see for the inexperienced eye but getting that experience is fun and if you do not find any morels, you have still had a lovely walk.

But chanterelles, now they are a different story altogether. Chantys do not try to hide or blend in to the forest floor as do morels. They pop out from the forest floor like glow sticks at a rave, making it so easy to spot them you just know they want you to take them home. I suspect if they could they would prance around your feet like a puppy and nip at your pant legs. And they make it so easy to identify them that even a beginner like me can differentiate them from the fakes.

In case you are ever taking a walk in the woods and see some orange-ish mushrooms, here is how to tell if it is a chanterelle or if it will make your butt bleed. (To be fair, it will be the chafing from toilet paper abrasion due to frequent toilet visits that will cause bleeding, not the fake chanterelles, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic)

First off, chantys are a medium to dark golden color. But so are the two look-alikes that you should not eat so do not go on just color. Chanterelle mushrooms have what is known as false gills. Gills are those things on the underside of the cap easily seen on mushrooms you get from the store, they look like the fins on your air conditioner compressor. But chantys do not have regular gills, they have this wavy stuff that goes partway down the stem. This is the best way to tell a chanty from the non-chanty.

False gills on chanterelle mushroom
Chanterelles come in different sizes but all have false gills.

Additionally, chantys grow singly, not a big mess of ‘shrooms like some fungus beehive. They also grow on the forest floor, not on trees or rotting logs, because they have a relationship with the trees. This relationship is called mycorhizal and it means the fungus and the tree roots hook up.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How to tell the real chanterelles from those butt bleeders? Good question! Those butt bleeders are commonly called Jack-O-Lanterns or Omphalotus olivascens, I call them omphas for short. First off, they won’t kill you, just give you terrible diarrhea for a couple of days. That is much better than some amanitas making you get a liver transplant, if you live at all. So how to tell the ompha from the chanty? Simple! Ompha has gills. Check it out.

Chanterelle on left, Ompha on right. Wavy false gills go partly down stem versus true gills that stop at stem.

Here is a chanty and an ompha together. These two were found only a couple of feet apart under a giant spruce. Around here the chantys prefer Douglas Fir but there is always the exception. Except the gills part, chantys never have true gills.

Also, ompha is a scrub, in the parlance of our times, meaning it just sits there sucking the life out of trees, dead or alive, and does not have a plan to become a contributing member of society. They just hang out on the passenger side of life. So the ompha will be found growing on dead trees or fallen logs. Omphas may also grow in clumps, where more than one mushroom is growing from the same base. Chantys do not do that. They stand on their own two feet, so to speak.

What do you do if you do not have access to chanterelles in your neck of the woods? You can purchase dried mushrooms here. You must be sure to use boiling water to rehydrate or risk a rubbery mess. Since most of the chanterelles charm is the color and texture it adds to a dish and not the flavor, make sure to follow directions in rehydrating. If you have access to fresh mushrooms and want to hoard them for later, they do freeze well if you saute them before freezing. I wonder if you could find fresh chanterelles in a fancy food store like Whole Foods? Let me know if you see them in your grocery store!

So, what to do with these mushrooms if you are not going to hoard them for the zombie apocalypse? So many things! You can try the classic saute in butter and garlic and serve with crackers and cheese. Then you will realize I am right and that chantys do not have such suberb flavor. (Exception alert, I am told that black chanterelles are flavorful but I cannot verify at this time) I think the thing to do is to add them to creamy dishes, a baked mac-n-cheese, a risotto, a stir-fry, in a cream sauce over tofu (or a meat, I guess, if you are into that), added to an omelette or French-style creamed eggs, chopped and sauteed then stirred into a goat cheese for a kick-ass toast spread or dip. I went and made up a special chanty dish and I am sharing the recipe with you just below.

Shoot, now I am hungry, even though I am not hungry. Writing about food always does that to me.

So, take a walk in the woods this fall and see what you find. Or take a vacation to some northern woods if you are on the Gulf Coast, you deserve a break from the heat and the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes. Go find some little gold buttons of love on the forest floor to remind you that while the sun is going away for now, it will be back in due time.

Here is that simple recipe for the foraged harvest, Chanterelle and Tomato Sauce. The sauce is fast to cook so start the pasta water first, then get going on this quick and easy sauce. It is great on pasta and also on toast! Our tomato harvest has been extraordinary this year so finding ways to showcase both foraged and farmed foods has been a wonderful task! I prefer cooking tomato dishes in cast iron to get a little boost of iron in my diet. Don’t believe the myth about acidic foods and cast iron, a seasoned cast iron skillet can handle anything, even an omelette. If you only have one skillet in your kitchen, make it this one. You will love it. And if you do not have a wooden spatula as shown below, check this one out. I use it for everything and it is good on any type of pan finish.

Chanterelle and Tomato on Pasta
Served over pasta with a sprinkle of flaked sea salt,this sauce is bright and fresh, just like early autumn!

Chanterelle with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Cup sliced chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato chopped with juice (about 1 cup chopped tomato)
  • 3 cloves garlic (if you are not a garlic lover, you can use less but I recommend trying it this way at least once)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • flaked finishing salt
  • grated Parmesan or Romano (optional)

In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, saute the chanterelles in 3 Tablespoons of butter. If they seem to stick before cooking down add more butter as needed. About 4 or 5 minutes into the saute, press on a couple of mushrooms with a wooden spatula, if it squishes down a bit and releases some watery juice it is cooked. You don’t have to worry about over-cooking mushrooms but do not burn your butter! Once the mushrooms are nice and soft, add the chopped tomato, juice and all. Let the tomato and mushroom cook down, about 3-4 minutes. Now add the garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, only a minute or two, and there is still tomato juice and butter sauce standing in the pan. Stir the lemon juice into the mixture and remove from heat and add a sprinkle of flaked salt. Serve over pasta and top with some grated Parm or Romano, although this is optional and I like the sauce with and without the cheese. Leftover sauce is fabulous on toast or in a sandwich with a slice of gruyere.

Fresh chanterelles sauteeing
Fresh chanterelles starting to saute in butter. I am cooking a few extra to pop in the freezer.
Chanterelles finished sauteeing
Boy those chanterelles cook down a lot! Don’t worry, you cannot overcook mushrooms but you can burn butter so as soon as you reach this stage, add tomato
Adding tomato to mushroom saute
Adding the chopped tomato with juice to the mushrooms
Add garlic at end of cooking
When the tomato has cooked a bit and starts to soften like this, add the garlic. Notice there is still some butter glazing the pan, you can add another tablespoon if your butter has been soaked up by the mushrooms. Stir in lemon juice and you are done!

Let me know if you try this recipe and how it worked out for you! If you do not have a cast iron skillet then use whatever 10-12 inch skillet you have and then get on Amazon and order a cast iron skillet! You will be amazed at how easy cooking can be.

Here are the items I recommended in the recipe above, consolidated just for you. If you do buy one of these items on Amazon through my provided link, it will not cost you anything extra and Amazon will pay me a small commission on the sale so I can bring you more recipes that are simple and delicious.

Spring makes a booty call

For a few glorious days I got to see what warmth and natural Vitamin D was like. It was as if the Olympic Peninsula weather had a nasty breakup from Winter and went out on a rebound date with Spring. There were a few days of well-above-freezing nights and afternoons that hit 70 degrees; truly such a lovely dalliance. Alas the OP realized that maybe it wasn’t done with Winter just yet and rainy-day 50 degrees returned to try and make things work.

Dazzled by the sunshine and digging out T-shirts, shorts, and, oh yes, a razor (I had sort of let No-Shave-November drag on a bit), I was again smitten by this northwest paradise. While walking in the sunshine I was remembering a hike I took late last summer. I’ll let this be a bit of photojournalism.

Moon and Monty

How does an Idahoan get anything done? There’s so many delightful distractions from the To Do list during the summer. I am a firm believer that one should strive to have accomplishments each day AND that one should absolutely not miss out on the amazingness of the world while in the pursuit of checking off that To Do list. Maybe you should have two lists, a To Do list where you get to feel productive and a Tah Dah! list where you allow time for the miracle of the world to unfold before you.

Figs in the Northern Rockies?

I had some lucky inside info from the don on a location of a fig tree. Figs in Idaho? This place never ceases to surprise me. I was able to find the tree and so much more! I surmise this spot must have been a former homestead along the river and a tiny orchard was planted. First I saw the fig tree, its leaves are unmistakable, even if you have never seen a fig tree before in your life, even if the only exposure to a fig leaf might be the pictures of Adam and Eve with a leafy bathing suit, you will instinctively know a fig leaf when you see it.

Wasps also like figs.

As you might remember if you read the Ponderosa Pinecone picking blog story, the wasps here have well earned their reputation for being aggressive. I was disbelieving of this reputation at first because the wasps in my yard in Houston were so mellow that we never had a negative encounter, even if I accidentally bumped them or soaked them with the water hose. The wasps out here in the harsh and wild West are just plain mean and will sting you just for breathing. Luckily these wasps on the figs are virtually drunk with the sugar and can hardly stay on the fig they are eating. Yes, those boogers eat figs. They poke holes in the figs and nibble until in a sugar coma. Look here.

Wasp-made holes in this fig

So this is probably a good time to mention that whole “figs aren’t vegetarian because they have dead wasps in them” thing. I am not an expert on fig varieties but as far as I can tell, this is just a common fig that doesn’t need another tree or wasps to pollinate (lucky for it because I don’t know how many miles to the next fig tree it might be!) And these wasps are not the fig wasp I saw pictures of on Google. You can tell by the head shape, these are just normal mean wasps that will sting you as soon as look at you- except for one thing… they are apparently happy drunks

Since they are so satiated with sugar, the wasps hardly even notice me or Monty and so we were able to safely pick all the figs we desired.

The grasshoppers also were hanging around the fig tree. The grasshoppers eat with more gusto than the wasps. I identify more closely with them in the eating style department.

Grasshoppers are big and gusty eaters

Near the fig tree was a tree with a fruit hanging on it that I hadn’t noticed before. I grabbed a fruit off the tree and opened it up because for some reason I had an inkling it might be interesting and low and behold…

What is it?

A walnut!

Although doesn’t the walnut fruit look kind of like a small apple? But it pulls away cleanly and leaves the giant nut we love to eat.

By now my collection bag was getting heavy. I do make a point to only take no more than 10 per cent of the food on a wild tree so the animals who can’t go grocery shopping have plenty to eat. Even so, my bag was getting full with the figs and walnuts when I spied a tree with little orange baubles dangling from it.

Drawn to it, I stepped under the tree and plucked one of the salmon-colored beauties. Admiring it for a moment, I ripped it open like a hawk on a starling and checked the seed. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a plum or perhaps an apricot. Once I saw the seed, I tasted the flesh. It was bright and tart and I still couldn’t be 100% sure if it was plum or apricot. Or could this be a rogue plum-apricot hybrid? It was textured like a plum but tiny and orange and tart like an apricot. But the seed lended itself more towards plum. I might have taken a bit more than the 20% on this tree. Plums are famous for having the whole tree ripen at the same time and you have about 36 hours to harvest them or they fall off and rot. Okay, maybe a bit more than 36 hours but it’s not far off the mark. Ask any plum grower. And these guys WANTED to come with me. They were literally falling off the tree and hitting me on the head and shoulders trying to leap into my bag. And they were so soft and squishy and at the peak of ripeness this very moment. It was heavenly and the wasps hadn’t discovered them or maybe they just didn’t have the sugar the figs did so I was all alone picking, or perhaps the better word would be ducking, the plums.

Now Monty, who was not as impressed as I with the extraordinary bounty of the river valley, was getting rather thirsty. However, being the protective fella he is when we are out walking alone, he wouldn’t leave me to go down the 50 feet to the river and get a drink so we walked down together. It was so lovely on the river with the cool fall wind blowing gently balancing the sunshine. I could have stayed there all day.

The wonders never cease! Right near where I parked my car was a group of pear trees and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of fruit on them that was within my reach.

Coming up from the river I came across a blackberry bush. Around here the berries are ripe about July to August and this is in late September so these were well past ripeness and were actually dried on the bush. I picked a few and they were delicious! Kind of like Nature’s fruit leather and I didn’t mind all the seeds in the least, it was sort of like chia seeds. I was entranced by the yumminess, enough to brave all the tiny thorns that are so stabby so I grabbed about a half cup of the dried berries. I probably ate as much or more while collecting.

And if all that wasn’t enough, then, in a cool spot on the walk back I spied a blackberry bush that had berries just beginning to ripen! Honestly, this is the most amazing spot, just when you think you have a handle on it, another surprise rounds the corner.

Here are a couple of photos of the bounty from this Eden.

Pears, figs, walnuts, and berries!

This one includes some items from the don’s garden. It’s a great time to be a vegetarian!

and plums/pluots, kale, tomato, cucumbers…

Gosh, all that remembering has made me hungry!

My days now will be divided between Idaho and Washington. Both of them are coastlines, if you look far enough back in the geologic record. I am quite lucky to have such extraordinary beauty surrounding me and these current cold and gray days are just a time to remember the bounty of summer.

And perhaps begin to plan this year’s garden!