Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Roses have hips? (a.k.a. catch-up post)

So yeah, just a catch up post, sharing some things I learned about plants that are growing in my part of New York State, and all the fun things I learned while researching them. I really have my son to thank for this, as his constant questions keep me interested in the natural world while we hang out outside.

So the first plant we came across was this vine with this spiky looking fruit on it. Which, I immediately poked to see if the spines were sharp. Yes, I learned absolutely nothing from the various cacti I have stuck myself with. Well, the spines on it aren't sharp they are soft, and so is the fruit, I wouldn't let the kiddo touch it until I knew what it was so I went inside and did some research. Turns out this highly prolific plant (because it is EVERYWHERE in the back yard) is a wild cucumber, but also goes by manroot, and old man in the earth. It's not harmful to touch, but can be poisonous to ingest, and the plant derives it's name from the large tuber that spawns the vines. Evidently the tuber can be several feet long and weigh up to 100lbs in larger plants. The tuber also has soap-like properties and the fruits can act as loofahs when they are dried and the spikes removed.. So this plant is like the ultimate bathroom buddy. Well I am glad to finally know what this plant is, but I am concerned about trying to find this tuber and unearthing it, if the amount of vines in the yard are any indication, this thing is going to be like digging up a body.

I talked to my son about how various plants release seeds, and we looked at the way various plants spread, since we also have burdock in the yard we talked about how some plants rely on animals to get from place to place. Then, came the fun part of the evening, I showed him the "spotted touch-me-not" that is thriving in the perimeter of the yard. These plants are actually a lot of fun because when their
seed pods are ready to disperse their seeds if you touch them they spring open and fling seeds in every direction. I myself spent the better part of half an hour poking seed pods when I read this online after identifying the plants about two weeks ago. So we had more fun last night as I hunted down the seed pods that were ready to pop and the kiddo touched them and then laughed as the seeds flew everywhere. Part of me cringes to think of the crazy amount of seeds we threw everywhere, and hence this nice border plant is going to be everywhere very shortly. It is a weed, but it's kind of pretty, and the flowers are very unique. It's not poisonous, but really has no use, although supposedly it does help to neutralize poison ivy oil when you get it on your skin. This isn't something I am willing to test out, nor can I really test out since I don't react to poison ivy. But if you do run into some poison ivy and use some of these crushed up leaves and it works, let me know.

Well, the whole reason that I wanted to take this tour of the yard was to harvest some of the rose hips that we have on the multitude of rose bushes that are thriving in the yard. I always thought these things were finicky and hard to grow, but I may have to change that opinion since they are taking over the parts of the yard they have been planted in. I wanted to be sure to harvest the hips off of the bushes that are sporting the most colorful fruit and also happen to be turning this lovely purple color. Another thing about living in the mountains, it feels like fall, and some of the leaves are already changing. So the current plan is to sheet mulch the strip of lawn on the south side of the house, which is really nothing more than a pain in the butt to mow, and replace the grass with rose bushes. I want something there that I don't need to mow. This is part of the process of getting rid of as much lawn as possible and start using that space to produce food. I want enough roses in my yard to produce some rose hip jelly next year, this is the ultimate goal, and I am going to start these seeds indoors next spring and transplant them outside. So why put so much effort into growing roses if all I really want from them are the rose hips? Good question!

Rose hips are not only tasty and used to make jelly, tea, and marmalade, but they also have some great medicinal properties. They are really high in vitamin C (higher than citrus fruits), which for those of us around here looking to eat local is incredibly important because we can't even grow citrus fruits. Without vitamin C you get scurvy, which while talking like a pirate is fun, scurvy is not. Since my ultimate goal is to eat solely local foods, this was a revelation, living in an area with a limited growing season and trying to ensure you don't get certain diet deficiencies is pretty challenging. Aside from their vitamin content, they also have lycopene which is great for prostate health. Rosehips have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be great for those of you who have arthritic joints. I read online that they are sometimes combined with hibiscus leaves to make a tea (hibiscus leaf tea is a wonderful way to lower blood pressure naturally).

I know that it's going to be a challenge growing roses from seeds and I am going to cut open the hips now and soak the seeds overnight to see if some of the ones I picked yesterday will germinate. Wish me luck, I am doing some experimental stuff here.

No comments:

Post a Comment