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Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007


Bara no mi (rosehips)

Now the autumn shudders In the rose's root. Far and wide the ladders Lean among the fruit. Now the autumn clambers Up the trellised frame, And the rose remembers The dust from which it came.

Brighter than the blossom On the rose's bough Sits the wizened, orange, Bitter berry now; Beauty never slumbers; All is in her name; But the rose remembers The dust from which it came. "Autumn Chant" by American poet Edna St Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

As winter advances, roses may shed the last of their leaves, but their rosehips remain, making colorful mouthfuls for hungry birds. There are about 250 species of wild rose throughout the northern hemisphere, and just as the flowers are different, so are the fruits. Some rosehips are as round as cherries while others are long and slender. Japan is home to two wild roses that produce notable rosehips. These are the hamanasu , or prickly hedgehog rose (Rosa rugosa) , and the no-ibara (R. multiflora) . The hedgehog rose bears spectacular rosehips that can be 5 cm across (see "In Bloom," Sept. 4, 2003). By contrast, the no-ibara bears dainty rosehips that can be as little as 4 mm across. Except for the hairy seeds they contain, most rosehips are edible. Traditionally people would wait for the first frost before gathering them because then they were considered to be sweeter. Rosehips were made into jellies, preserves and even wine. Nowadays, we are most likely to find them in herbal tea, since they make a pleasant pink drink full of vitamin C.

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