But as time rolls on to the white world of winter, there’s no reason to leave behind the wild colors of autumn. Here’s a funny thing about the pinks, reds, yellows and golds that remain in leaves once the green of chlorophyll fades away, the air turns chilly and the nights get long: Those colors will stay as perfect as the day they were picked if the leaves are allowed to dry in complete darkness. You can clip a spray or branchlet of leaves and dry them for a few weeks in the back of a closet or in a little-used cupboard. Then arrange them in a vase or even a glass—no water needed—and they’ll stay bright and cheerful until spring comes around again. It’s a quick, natural arrangement to perk up a room that you don’t want to take time to decorate for the holidays.
But, there’s more to what grows in the wild than eye candy. How about some natural, and potent, vitamin C? The Wasatch Front mountain trails are garlanded with wild roses. After the petals drop, the green rose hips swell and turn a bright orange red. The insecticides of summer are almost never sprayed on the roses that grow in the woods, and they’re usually free of the sticky residue of auto pollution that settles on plants that grow in the city.
If a trail isn’t on national forest or private land, you can pick wild rose hips with abandon. At home, lay them out on a tray or plate and allow to dry for three weeks, then seal in a tightly capped jar. The nutritional content will remain intact for several years, and the fruit of the rose can be used for refreshingly tart tea, soup and can even made into jelly. Here’s the payoff: According to a 1953 study, wild rose hips contain more vitamin C than commercially grown blueberries, up to 40 percent more C than oranges plus a good amount of vitamin A and the minerals calcium and iron. And, when you allow them to dry naturally, they don’t lose nutritional value like the ones dried by heat and sold commercially.
To use, put a few teaspoons of the dried fruit into a plastic bag and crush with a hammer or the bottom of a glass. Boil a mug’s worth of water, turn off the heat and steep the tiny seeds and flakes of skin for about five minutes. It makes a healthy and refreshing drink.
Here are a few of my favorite trails where you will find treats to improve both your health and décor:
Park City Mountain Resort: Leave your car in the parking lot and start walking up the mountain at the Eagle Lift. After about five minutes of walking, to your right you’ll see a trail leading into the trees. Follow it for about quarter mile and you’ll begin to see the bright red of rose hips growing just off the trail, peeking above the brush.
Pipeline Trail/Quarry Trail: Known by both names, this trail is behind the “electric” (now digital) sign in Little Cottonwood Canyon. As you walk the exposed part for about a mile, you’ll pass the water plant and the trail will become shaded as it follows the creek. You won’t find many rose hips, but bring a scissors to snip a collection of leaves to take home.
Brighton: Park at the base and begin walking up the slopes of Brighton or Milly; you’ll find both wild rose hips and great leaves. You may wish to bring back just photos, since this is Forest Service land.
A day of skiing will become an even better memory as you enjoy tea in the evening made from rose hips you gathered before the snow fell.