I walked a trail this week that had many wild rose bushes growing on either side of the dirt path. They were covered in bright red rose hips and a group of robins was huddled beneath them to get protection from the strong, cold wind off the lake. Cedar Waxwings and Thrushes do eat these wild fruits so perhaps the robins were feeding on them as they continued their southward migration. Cultivated roses are usually dead-headed by gardeners so the fruit does not have a chance to develop. Old fashioned shrub roses like rugosas bear rose hips abundantly.
Rose hips are a superb source of vitamin C, having a much higher content than citrus fruit. During World War II when imports of citrus products were limited, rose hips became especially popular in Great Britain. Volunteers spent many hours gathering hips from hedge rows for making rose hip syrup for the Ministry of Health to distribute. They were also used by Native Americans as food in the winter months in teas, stews and soups.
Rose hips must have the seeds and tiny inner hairs removed before they are completely dried. They can then be kept in a cool place or in the freezer. To make a tea, add 4-6 rose hips to 2 cups of water and boil for 30 minutes. (Pouring boiling water over the dried hips is not good enough.) Strain and sweeten to taste.
While black teas are my favourite, I do enjoy a cup of rose hip tea from time to time. The health benefits have been known for centuries even if few of us enjoy them today.
Hereis a site that gives more information on rose hips.