Most noticeable in the garden now are the big, reddening rose hips, the large fruits of Rosa rugosa and R. glauca (and, if you have them, R. pomifera). These three species of roses are easy to grow and welcome in the edible landscape.

Rosa rugosa, the beach rose or saltspray rose, is so common along the Maine Coast that it is often thought to be native. In fact, the species is native to Northern China, Korea and Japan and was introduced to the United States around 1770, according to Michael Dirr’s “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.” While dozens of hybrid rugosas have been developed since, the species tends to be hardier (to zone 2) and more pest resistant than those hybrids. Rugosa roses are also salt tolerant.

Rosa glauca, also called R. rubrifolia or redleaf rose, is also hardy to zone 2 and is a nearly carefree rose with handsome, blue-green foliage that is more delicate in appearance than that of the rugosas. The redleaf rose has large, pear-shaped hips. Some references call this a thornless variety. It does have fewer thorns than many roses but is not thornless.

Rosa pomifera (or R. villosa, apple rose) is another species that is rewarding to grow for its large, edible hips and easy care.

All three species do best in full sun and in a moderately fertile, well-drained soil, but will tolerate less-than-ideal conditions — as the seaside roses growing on sandy beaches demonstrate.

The hips of these roses are high in vitamin C and have a tangy taste. The lycopene pigment in rose hips may even help prevent some kinds of cancer. Rose hips can be made into jams and jellies, teas, syrup or wine and can be dried or used fresh.

Collect hips any time after they turn red — and collect only from plants that haven’t been exposed to pesticides. They’ll be sweeter if collected after a frost, but are less likely to be moldy if collected in late summer. If you’re not using them immediately, cut the hips open, remove the seeds, wash the fruit pieces and dry them on screens. I wear gloves when working with rose hips; their small thorns can be irritating otherwise.

These shrub roses, grown on their own rootstock, are easy to propagate from seed. Just cut the hips in half, scoop out the seed, place it in a moist medium, such as peat moss, vermiculite or a seed starting mix, and keep the seed cool or cold (in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator or in an unheated outbuilding) over winter. Seeds will sprout in the spring, when they can be grown in small pots. Transplanted to a nursery bed or to larger pots, they will grow into respectable — and beautiful and fragrant — shrubs in a few years.

You could even try sowing some seeds in a nursery area in the garden this fall. I have had R. glauca reproduce by self-seeding but, oddly, R. rugosa has not done this in my landscape.

Rose Hip Jam

Place 1 pound (about 4 quarts) of clean rose hips in 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the hips are very soft, adding more water if needed. Put the mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and large pieces of hips. Add about 1 pound of sugar (about 3 1/2 cups) to each pound of pulp. Simmer, adding more sugar as desired and stirring frequently. Cook until the mix has the consistency of jam. Process in hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom, in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Rose Hip Tea

Pick rose hips, remove the stem and blossom ends, cut the hips in half, remove the seeds, and then wash the pieces of hips. Place several pieces in a cup of water, pour boiling water over them and steep for 10 minutes, or dry the pieces of hips on a screen and store them in airtight containers for later use.