Nice hips! Rose hips, that is.

Berries? No, rose hips! Photo by Roberto Verzo, CC,

Berries? No, rose hips! Photo by Roberto Verzo, CC,

If you have rose bushes in your area, you’ll notice they’re covered with red balls. What’s up with that? Is it a weird rose-eating fungus? Nope! They’re the roses’ fruit, called rose hips.

Roses you send to me

Ever wonder where roses came from? Well, they came from all over the place! Most species are from Asia, but a few are native to North America, Europe and northern Africa. Roses from far-flung regions are more than happy to interbreed when introduced to each other, which makes the family tree (or bush) quite muddled. Most of today’s garden roses came from 10 species from Asia.

A rose by any other name

Why rose hips? The word hip is from Old English, meaning ‘seed pod of the wild rose’. That’s a pretty specific noun! Rose hips are also called heps or haws. All these names sound like they belong in a jazz song.

Not a fruit!

Okay, I lied. Rose hips are not a fruit. Like the strawberry, they’re an aggregate fruit. If you cut one in half, you’ll see hairy achenes inside. These are the real fruit. The red fleshy stuff around them is actually the receptacle.

Can you eat them?

Yep, they're edible. Just watch out for thorns!Photo by Kristen Taylor, rose hips, CC,

Yep, they’re edible. Just watch out for thorns!Photo by Kristen Taylor, rose hips, CC,

Yes! Well, just the fleshy red part. The achenes have tiny, irritating hairs that would do nasty things to your insides. Some rose species have bigger hips than others, ranging from pea to cherry-sized. R. rugosa generally have the largest hips, and therefore have the most to eat! Rose hips are eaten by birds and small animals in the fall and winter.

Why would I want to eat them?

I asked the same question when I was 14. I’d read in a book that rose hips have more vitamin C than oranges, and I wanted to know what they tasted like. I plucked some large hips off my Mom’s rose bush and went at them with a knife and cutting board. Unlike apples, rose hips are mostly fluffy seeds with a tiny layer of edible red flesh. Peeling off this layer is labour intensive. Once it was free I popped it in my mouth and savored the tangy flavour, which reminded me of a crabapple. Texture wise, it felt like having a scrap of peach skin stuck in your teeth. It was yummy, but definitely not worth the effort.

Some would disagree with me.

Kissed by a rose

Rose hips are jam-packed with nutrients. Photo by Mark Garth, Rose Hips, CC,

Rose hips are jam-packed with nutrients. Photo by Mark Garth, Rose Hips, CC,

Rose hips are nutritional power-houses. A handful of rose hips contains as much vitamin C as 60 oranges! They are rich in vitamin A and B. They also have bioflavonoids, chemicals that strengthen blood vessels to prevent bruising, nosebleeds and hemorrhages.

If you live in a cold, dark county far away from orange groves, rose hips start looking pretty good. In Sweden, rose hip soup, or Nyponsoppa, is a popular dessert. Many indigenous groups in North America used rose hip tea and syrup for respiratory infections and sore mouths, and as a source of vitamins during the winter. They were used traditionally to cure arthritis, colds, indigestion, bladder stones and even gonerrhea.

Rose hips played a role in the war effort. England had a hard time importing oranges during the Second World War. It was kept scurvy-free by rose-hip syrup, made from hips hand-picked by volunteers.

I want to try them!

Okay, if you insist. If you pick your own, avoid bushes that were sprayed with pesticides. For the best result, wait until after the first frost. If you do they’ll be softer and sweeter. Just slice them in half with scissors or a knife and remove the seeds. Make tea with the fresh hips or throw them in salads. If you’re ambitious, you can make jelly, jams, syrups sauces and even cupcakes! Just be careful not to use aluminum pans, which will react with and destroy all that lovely vitamin C.

Enjoy the rainbow colours of rose hips this fall! Perhaps even sip some rosehip tea, which you can buy commercially.


And now for something completely different

Remember that first day at a new school? That was me this week. Photo by r.nial.bradshaw, CC.

Remember that first day at a new school? That was me this week. Photo by r.nial.bradshaw, CC.

After I finished my 5-year Bachelor’s degree in Biology last year, I had a revelation:

I didn’t want to do science. I wanted to tell people about it.

Thus began my science communication journey. Where are the jobs? Are there jobs? What kind of education do you need? Do I really need to go back to school? Are you sure, because I just finished school, and I don’t want to go back!

I decided that I did need to go back to school. If I wanted to work in communications I needed some hard lessons on how to write things that people will read. Goodness knows I didn’t learn that in Biology! Journalism was suggested over and over as a great way to get those skills. So, with no further ado, I signed up for a 2-year journalism program at a local college.

I’ve been told that college is VERY different from university. However, biology is also VERY different from journalism, so I have too many variables to make a true comparison.

Darn, I’m still doing science, aren’t I? I thought it would be fun to look at some of the similarities and differences so far between my biology and journalism education. Here goes:

1. Specialist vs. Generalist

In biology I was trained to be a specialist. My first year courses had titles like ‘Organismal Biology’ and ‘Plant Science’, but by third year I was taking ‘Taxonomy of Ontario Plants’ and ‘Animal Behaviour’. I was in the honours stream, which meant I was being groomed for grad studies. I did a research project and became an expert on orange testicles in fruit fly sex. As you can imagine, there are not a lot of jobs that require this kind of expertise. Biology did teach me great research skills, and a sense of curiosity about how the world around me works. However, the idea in academia is to be a specialist, and to know a lot about a little.

In journalism, we’re trained to be generalists. It’s fine to have favorite topics, but we have to be prepared to cover anything and everything. That could mean local news, sports, politics, economics or celebrity gossip. Being trained as a generalist was a new idea to me, but I like the challenge. Forcing myself to read the sports page will be difficult, but it can’t be much more difficult than Organic Chemistry, right?

2. Photos!

This year I have a photojournalism class, and I’m a little nervous about it. We’ll learn how to use all the manual settings on an SLR digital camera. We’ll also learn how to convince people to let us take their picture, which I imagine is more difficult than the technical side of things.

Buying an expensive camera was a stressful experience. Looking at the owner’s manual is overwhelming. New technology often has this effect on me, but as a journalist I’ll have to learn to keep up with changing technology. I might as well start now.

Then I remembered that I had used strange, expensive tools to take photos in biology too! My first-year lab coordinators were really keen on us taking photos of what we were seeing under the microscope. They taught us all about focus and exposure. Of course, photographing fly testicles also taught me about white balance and finding the true colour of something. The difference is that I didn’t have to buy these microscopes, or carry them around with me!

I’m sure I’ll make many more comparisons as the school year progresses. I am very excited to be learning something completely different. However, due to a heavy workload I’ll reduce my posts here to once every two weeks. Wish me luck!

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