Rose hips are the seed pods of roses. We don’t often see them anymore, because we tend to prune the faded rose blossoms to encourage more flowers.
However, if you leave the spent flowers on the rose bush at the end of the season, you should see these small, berry-sized, reddish seed balls left on tips of the stems. They are actually very ornamental, looking like small crabapples. They are edible and birds enjoy them, too.
How to eat rose hips
Both rose hips and rose petals are edible. Roses are in the same family as apples and crab apples, which is why their fruits bear such a strong resemblance. Rose hips also have a bit of the tartness of crab apples and are a great source of vitamin C.
All roses should produce hips, although rugosa roses are said to have the best tasting hips. These are also generally the largest and most abundant.
Don’t use rose hips from plants that have been treated with a pesticide that is not labeled for use on edibles. If you’re not sure, it’s best to avoid using them.
Harvesting rose hips
The best time to harvest your rose hips is after the first frost. Frost helps sweeten the flavor. They should still be firm and have good color. Leave the shriveled or dried rose hips for the birds to enjoy; they won’t be as tasty and may be too mushy to pick.
Waiting until after a frost is also good for the plant, since cutting the hips before frost could encourage the rose to send out new growth which would only be killed back at the next frost.
How to prepare rose hips
You can use whole, fresh rose hips, but the seeds inside have an irritating, hairy covering, so it is recommended you remove them prior to eating.
Trim off the stem and blossom ends. Hold the hip securely and slice it in half, then remove the inner seeds. You can do all of this trimming with a pair of scissors if the hips are too small to use a knife.
Rinse off the hips and decide how you want to use them.
What can I use rose hips for?
Rose hips make great jellies, sauces, syrups, soups and seasoning, even fruit leather. To get a sense of the taste of rose hips, start out by brewing yourself a cup of rose hip tea.
You can use fresh or dried rose hips for a simple rose hip tea. You’ll need about twice as many rose hips if using fresh. For fresh rose hip tea, steep 4 to 8 rose hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes.
If you want to try out the flavor of rose hips, but don’t have any in your garden or you aren’t up to all the seeding and prep work, rose hip tea is widely available in stores. Don’t use aluminum pans or utensils that could discolor the hips. Aluminum also destroys their vitamin C. Stainless steel is fine.