Food Garden Roses

Roses in the food garden

We grow roses for their beauty in the garden and for picking. So what are they doing in the food garden?

Roses are not only food for the soul, but certain varieties are food for the body too. Their nutritional value lies in their rose hips and, to a lesser extent, in their petals, especially red roses. As companion plants, the exposed stamens of single roses attract pollinators, birds love the rose hips and taller bushes will shade tender crops from the heat of the summer sun. As roses and most vegetables have similar growing requirements (full sun, well-drained soil, regular watering and fertilising), they don’t mind sharing space, and the bonus of pickable blooms for the home is another cost saver.

What’s good about big hips!
Rose hips contain lots of Vitamin C as well as Vitamins A, D and E and antioxidants. A tea made from dried rose hips is drunk to prevent colds and flu, sore throats and stress. The flavour of hips varies, and not all are tasty so it’s a good idea to taste them. Chopped fresh or dried hips can be used to make chutney, marmalade, jelly and syrup, and can even be added to savoury dishes like quiche. Always use a stainless steel pot as copper or aluminium destroys the Vitamin C.

Roses that produce good hips

  • ‘Baby love’ a free-flowering floribunda which grows about 1m high and wide, and is covered with yellow, medium-sized open blooms. The yellow blooms don’t fade in the sun and glow against the deep green foliage. Ideal in a pot, as a neat clipped hedge or as a specimen shrub.
  • ‘Ballerina’ is a hybrid musk rose that has small blossom-pink flowers, grows 2m high and wide and can be trained up a trellis, or arch over fences. It is repeat flowering.
  • ‘Dornröschen’ is a heritage rose that grows into a well proportioned hybrid tea-shaped plant with large deep pink blooms that are very fragrant. It flowers continuously into winter.
  • ‘Erfurt’ is a large 2m by 3m bush that bears semidouble deep pink blooms, deepening in colour at the edges and with a white eye. It flowers continuously into winter.
  • ‘Lyndal Dawn’ is an Eco- Chic floribunda with fragrant carmine pink blooms that produce many hips during the season. It is the first to flower and doesn’t stop.
  • ‘Lord Penzance’ is an Eglantine rose with single, fragrant light lemon coloured blooms. It only flowers in spring, but does so profusely and grows into a large shrub, 2m high and wide.
  • ‘Meg Merrilees’ is also an Eglantine rose with open crimson blooms and apple-scented foliage (3m high and 2m wide). It makes beautiful hips and is a non-invasive replacement for the Eglantine rose that grows wild in colder areas.
  • ‘Brunonii’ is a very large climber or shrub with white semi-double blooms and a musky fragrance. It only flowers in spring.
  • Rosa rugosa regeliana has dark purplish-mauve flowers that develop deep red hips. It grows easily in poor, even sandy soil making it ideal for coastal gardens. It is repeat flowering and one of the best hip-forming roses in our climate.
  • ‘White Light’ is a floribunda, similar to ‘Iceberg’, but produces lovely hips that the birds love. It grows to shoulder height.

Consider planting roses with single or semi-double blooms like ‘Dainty Bess’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’, ‘Duncan’s Rose’, ‘Eyes for You’, ‘Gnome World’, ‘Johannesburg Garden Club’, ‘Single White’, ‘Ellerine’s Rose’ (semi-double), ‘Simply Charming’, ‘Starry Eyed’ and ‘Yellow Butterfly’.

Rule of thumb
For the best taste, colour and texture use firm-petalled fragrant roses. The richer the colour of the rose, the deeper will be the colour of the jam or syrup. Old favourites are ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Papa Meilland’ and ‘Mr Lincoln’ but more modern roses also fit the bill, such as ‘Garden Queen’, ‘Double Delight’, ‘Maria Callas’, ‘Frohsinn 82’, ‘Peach Melba’, ‘Alan Tew’, and ‘Just Joey’.

Encouraging hips
For roses to develop rose hips, the blooms must not be cut off. New flowering stems will sprout underneath the hips. In cooler moist climates, in parts of the Western Cape, the Midlands and around the Drakensberg the hip production is much more pronounced and the hips ripen well.

Eating hips
Harvest the hips in autumn when they are firm and are deep red or orange. Remove the stems and leaves, cut the hips in half and scoop out the seeds and fine hairs. It is essential to remove these because the tiny hairs can irritate the digestive system. The cleaned hips can then be cooked or diced and dried.

Drying Rose Hips

  • Spread out the hips on a clean surface and allow them to dry partially.
  • When the skins begin to feel dried and shrivelled, split the hips and take out all the large seeds. If the hips are too dry, it is difficult to remove the seeds, but if not dry enough, the inside pulp will be sticky and cling to the seeds.
  • After removing the seeds allow the hips to dry completely before storing or they will not keep well. Store in small, sealed plastic bags. These will keep indefinitely in the freezer or for several months in the refrigerator.
  • Soak dried hips overnight to soften them before using.

Making use of rose petals
Throughout history, fragrant rose petals have been harvested to make perfume, colourings, flavourings, syrups, jams, sweets, and even rose petal ice cream and liqueur. They
have medicinal uses too; a rose petal tea helps to relieve coughs and colds, calms and eases tension as well as pre-menstrual tension. Dried rose petals are used in potpourri. The quicker they dry, the more they retain their fragrance and colour

Harvesting and processing petals

  • Pick blooms when they are half open – that’s when they have the best fragrance.
  • The best time to pick is early in the morning.
  • Remove the hard, white base of each petal, where it is attached to the calyx. It has a bitter taste and will affect the flavour of your jam or syrup.

Dry petals in a dry, warm, sunny and enclosed space. Spreading the petals on a small holed mesh tray allows petals to be aired from both sides, making the drying process quicker. If the petals are laid too thick in a dark place they don’t dry quickly enough and tend to become mildewed and also lose their colour and fragrance

Good to Know
Don’t spray the roses if you plan to use the hips or petals.

The Gardener