Everything You Need to Know About Rosehips

The rose family (Rosaceae) is a large clan of dozens of species and thousands of hybrids. It is one of the most famous flowers in the world prized for its beauty and fragrance.

The Story of Rosehip

Rose petals are made into scented sachets, distilled into rosewater, and sold as expensive oils and perfumes. But the rose is not just a pretty face – it is a wild edible that can be eaten from root to tip.

The flowers flavour cakes, jellies, puddings, syrups and wine. The fruits, or rosehips, are added to salads, sauces, soups and teas. It is a medicinal plant too.

Around the world, the gentle healing properties of rose make a valuable addition to the natural apothecary cabinet.

Britain’s native wild roses have been open to discussion by botanists for years, because of the wide variations between different species and hybrids.

However, most agree on five distinct species: dog rose (Rosa canina), field rose (Rosa arvensis), sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa), burnet rose (Rosa spinosissima), and downy rose (Rosa villosa).

It is the dog rose (Rosa canina), a scrambling, prickly climber with delicate, whitish-pink flowers, who is the topic of this piece but other species will often take centre stage.

Like all wild roses, the dog rose must constantly compete with its cultivated cousins for recognition. Its subtle-scented flowers appear in early summer in shades of white to pink.

Gabrielle Hatfield says dog rose is one of the longest living plants: “A bush growing in Hildesheim in Germany was said to have been planted there in AD 850 by Emperor Charlemagne’s son”.

So we don’t forget the beauty of a wild rose forever in the shadow of its garden relatives, Hatfield writes:

“Viewed from a distance, a flowering English rosebush looks as though a flock of pink butterflies has perched on it…you see a jewel-like beauty, with a golden crown of stamens protected by delicate petals”.

The deep orange-red fruit – the rosehip – is traditionally the most-used part of the plant.

Mrs Grieve wrote in her A Modern Herbal:

“Rosehips were long official in the British Pharmacopoeia for refrigerant and astringent properties, but are now discarded and only used in medicine to prepare the confection of hips used in conjunction with other drugs.”

The dog rose (Rosa canina) was named for the belief that it cured the bite of rabid dogs. Roman physician Pliny the Elder in the 1st century told the story of a woman who received a message in a dream.

The woman was asked to send her son, a soldier, a decoction of wild (dog) rose root. The decoction, known to the Greeks as Cynorrhodon, cured a mad dog’s bite.

Other sources imply that ‘dog’ is a corruption of ‘dagger’ referring to the plant’s jagged-edged leaves.

One source suggests the ‘dog’ in dog rose was meant in a derogatory sense, “implying that Dog Rose was of ‘little worth’ in the garden”.

Both alternatives contradict the Greek story of the flower’s origins. Rest assured, dog rose is worthy of a place in our history and culture. Remains of its fruits are dated back to prehistoric settlements and prove its value to early societies.

When Are Rose Hips Ripe And Ready To Pick And Gather?

It depends on where in the country you live in because sometimes the North can be a month behind the South, and vice-versa. It’s strange times with climate change and that affects the fruiting times.

However usually in the South West, I am gathering rosehips from the end of September right through to December, and beyond.

Is It True I Need To Gather Rosehips After The First Frosts?

The reason this advice is often seen in the older wild food books is that fruit flesh becomes soft after a frost. The frost breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, thereby giving you more liquid once the fruit is cooked.

When I was a boy in the 1970s, I remember the Autumns being very cold and frosty.

These days I rarely see a frost before Christmas, and usually not until February or March, by which time the rosehip fruits might well have started to rot.

The way to mimic frost is to pick your rosehips when they are nice and red and fat, even if they appear hard, then take them home and put them in your freezer for 24 hours, defrost and use in your rosehip recipes.

Believe me when I say that you must always freeze your rosehips, as this will allow for maximum flavour when crafting your rosehip recipes.

Are All Rosehips Edible & Safe? Are Any Rosehips Poisonous?

Yes, all rosehips are edible. The ‘Hip’ is actually the fruit of the rose.

The tastiest ones foragers usually gather are Dog Rose (Rosa canina).

This is the traditional rose that was used in bygone days for all those old-fashioned recipes you might come across in your decrepitly ancient cookbooks.

Another is the Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa), an invasive that can be found in most cities.

It has ‘Hips’ the size of a large conker! Although they have big ‘Hips’, the flavour is quite watery, so is not that suited to making things like rosehip syrup, but is excellent in jams, jellies, vinegar etc.

Are All Rosehip Seeds Edible?

I’ve answered this question pretty fully in my article “Are Rose Hip Seeds Poisonous”.

What Can Rosehips Be Used For?

One of the most traditional rosehip recipes is rosehip syrup. In modern cooking creative chefs and cooks have been conjuring up a wide variety of ways to work with rosehip.

At the end of the day, you are only limited by your imagination.

Here are a few rose hip recipes of my own:

Does Cooking Rosehips Destroy Vitamin C

This is a common question and one that can easily be answered. Vitamin C is water soluble which means the vitamin C leeches into the water when cooking the rosehip fruit.

As most rosehip recipes require this water you are not losing any vitamin C. Yes some degradation of the vitamin C occurs due to the heat. How much is dependent on temperature and length of cooking time.

During the 2nd World War, the British Medical Journal did a thorough study. I wrote an article years back about this. You’ll find it here.

How To Dry And Preserve Rosehips?

The easiest way to store rosehips long term is by drying them.

The problem comes when you try and remove the annoying hairs that fill the inside of the rosehip. Like a fluffy jacket protecting the seeds.

Eating the rosehip hairs can be highly irritating to your digestive tract, hence the need to make sure you have removed them completely before using in any of your rosehip recipes.

A few years ago I created a photo tutorial showing you how to do this:

Rosehip – Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

You’ll learn the parts used as food and medicine, harvest time, recipes, nutrition and other ways humans use this amazing plantClick here to find out more.

My Latest Print Book is Now Available on Amazon

For over fifteen years I have experimented and explored the world of wild plants. Uncovering how our ancestors used plants to nourish and heal themselves.

I’ve spent thousands of hours digging through scientific papers, read hundreds of books. Even gone so far as to be nomadic for over a year. During this time I followed the seasons and plants around the highways and byways of these isles.

I have written this book to help you rediscover our forgotten plant heritage. To learn how to use wild plants as food and medicine. Knowledge that was once common to everyone. Click here to learn more.

Share your experience. Leave a note for others

  1. I thought it would be a great idea to taste the rose hips fresh off my ancient plant that won’t give up although it’s been chopped down years ago. Unfortunately the hips taste of nothing, with thin flesh. I thought it would be scented as the petals which I use in salads and cake decor. Tried boiling them but did not like the result. There are
    big seeds inside the fluff.

    Reply
  2. Hi, Just wanted to say that I have made really delicious Rose hip jelly with great success. I would like to make an oil for face moisturizing.
    Thanks for a great blog.

    Reply
  3. When I was a little girl, I spent a winter with my grandmother and we would walk in a ravine near where she lived in Northern Canada. She showed me “little beauty pills” (frozen rosehips). She instructed me to select a few and to kind of break them apart in my mouth and spit out the seeds and core as we walked. She told me to find as may as I had fingers on my hands.
    Each afternoon, she would call to my grandfather “Alesandja and i are going to plant roses now”

    Reply
  4. Can you freeze the hips for more than 24 hours? I have picked some to make a syrup but want to give it away for Christmas so wanted to make it in about two months – would freezing preserve them without losing the taste and vitamin c quality?

    Reply
  5. So glad I found you in my search! Firstly I discovered rosehip being good for arthritis, then realised its over growing in garden of new place I moved in to recently, now I’m about to freeze the hips gathered at weekend. Love your website and the whole foraging thing… got nettles too and recall making rinse for my hair years back, so that’s on list too!
    Thank you

    Reply
  6. So pleased I found this! We’ve been out on a rather blustery day and picked over a pound of hips. Thinking I might make an infused gin for Christmas. Any tips? They’re trimmed, washed and in the freezer ready for tomorrow

    Reply
  7. I make blackberry and rose hip jelly at this time of year and give as Christmas gifts, my friend calls it a taste of summer.
    Question – Where I gather my rose hips there is a rose bush in amongst all the others but instead of beautiful rosy hips it produces black/dark purple ones. I have watched this bush over the last few years and the flowers are indistinguishable from it’s neighbours, slightly paler in colour if you look closely and the leaves and thorns are the same. I can’t find anything in horticultural books to help. Can I harvest these hips and use as rosy ones safely?

    Reply
  8. I have been out this weekend and picked a kilo of lovely red hips to make your Rose Hip Syrup recipe. Never having done this before could you please advise if the hips are topped and tailed before crushing them or is it unnecessary?

    Reply
    • Robin, Thank you for your prompt reply, I’m going to really enjoy making the first batch. It has been a very good year for rose hips in the hedgerows.

      Reply
  9. I’ve just made some rosehip tea from the few handfuls of hips that I collected midweek. I was initially slightly sceptical after I’d dehydrated them and blitzed them in the processor. I was left with something that resembled chilli flakes after I sieved out the fluff. A good ten minutes infusing three level tsps of the hip flakes in the teapot has given me a lovely clear amber liquid with a delicate slightly citric flavour plus something else I can’t really identify. It has a gentle perfume that reminds me of pears… and it tastes really good. It was definitely a worthwhile investment of my time making this, I shall be collecting more hips next week. For info my three handfuls of hips produced approx. 70g of hip flakes.

    Reply
  10. I was very excited to make rosehip tea from fresh rosehips which I collected on a walk but was disappointed when I poured after 15 minutes brewing basically hot water into my cup. What did I do wrong. It seemed so easy!

    Reply
  11. I make rosehip oil for myself family and friends each year. This year I had to charge 10euro each for 100ml due to rising cost of carrier and vitamin e. No problem when I asked for same as they all love it and await from year to year for same. I really swear by it just love it.

    Reply
  12. The other day I pick rosehips but they are tiny smaller than a dry bean do I still have to ground them and take the hair out so I can make the tea? I dehydrated them wholes.

    Reply
  13. Mercedes – If you are 100% certain they are a rosehip species then yes, I would process them just to be on the safe side. The other way would be to simply use them whole to make tea, but make sure to use a fine strainer when pouring out.

    Reply
  14. Hi All ? I’m wanting to use my Rosehips for a facial moisturiser! Do anyone know how’d I go about this? Many Thanks. Darrell

    Reply
  15. We picked 2 gal. very large rose hips, (size of a 50 cent piece) peeled them and made jam and rose hip wine. Both are excellent! The wine is made the old fashoned way, in a crock with homemade inverted sugar and bakers yeast. It is just WONDERFUL!!! Then I use the first mash to make a second batch of fine pomice wine, which is soooo smooth. Everyone gets it for Christmas. They all LOVE it! The thousand seeds were planted and have tiny plants coming up.

    Reply
  16. I have been drinking rosehip tea for years, yet I only learned of the hairs in rose hips yesterday. and today, for the first time, after I pulverized my dried, whole rose hips a bit in my Vitamix, I saw the hairs. In the past i had always left the hips whole when making tea. I would just mash the hips up a bit after they were done steeping, never noticing the hairs. I’ve never felt irritation. I didn’t remove the hairs today because I figured I strain my tea so well it would be ok. But now I’m concerned about irritation. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
  17. Hi, I just moved…and in the process discovered several little plastic bags of dried rosehips that I bought over the course of the last many years. Still good for steeping in tea, or should I discard and get some fresh ones. Thanks for this great, informative and lovely web page!

    Reply
    • Picked rosehips today to make jelly but when I got home discovered they are full of worms. It’s the middle of August and they were looking a little dry and starting to wrinkle. Should I proceed or wait until next year when I can pick them a bit earlier?

      Reply
    • Hello Robin, thanks for this lovely article. I have a question: I have lots of hips, probably over a kilo, but I picked them early because my husband got a bit busy in the garden so they were all attached to pruned branches (still lots left for the birds thankfully). Less than a quarter seem red enough for making into syrup. Is there a way to encourage the rest to ripen? Have you ever tried to make syrup from unripe hips?

      Reply
    • Too true! ? Thanks for replying. Might try and ripen some on a sill, I’ll let you know if it works. Not that you’d need to know, being more sensible than me. ?

      Reply
  18. I really wanted to make a rose hip tincture this year. Unfortunately we had a very short growing season in Montana this year. I had read to pick them on the new moon after the 1st frost. So I did. They are mostly green, with a slight redness to them. I picked them and made the tincture. Well…. now I have been researching more on line and am reading the rose hips should be red.
    Will my tincture be any good? Will there be any vitamins in it? Should I just throw it out and hope for a longer growing season next year?
    Thanks in advance for any insight you can give me!

    Reply
  19. Firstly I read somewhere that you can freeze the hips for 24 hours in the freezer and when they thaw out or defrost, then they are ripened, I have never tried this myself but am willing to give it a go.

    And this is a question for Anna, how do you make rose hip oil? I am trying to produce home made cosmetics for personal use.

    Reply
  20. Hello! I have dried Rosehips I purchased. Can I make a syrup with dried Rosehips or I can only make tea? Also.. the Rosehips are dried in small pieces. I’m reading I should crush them into more of a powder when making tea. I this true? I would like to make tea and or syrup for my daughter to help fight off her cold. Thank you! Gina

    Reply
  21. Hello Robin, I was reading that it is best to take out the small hairs in the rose hips since they irritate the digestive tract. But if I just want to freeze them while and throw a few in a smoothie and mix it all up, will it still irritate?

    Reply
  22. i drink rosehip tea for vitamin C etc. 1 desertspoon of dried organic hips
    to about 3/4 – 1 pint of water ; boil then simmer very gently for at least 15 minutes . strain through a very fine reusable coffee filter . ( no honey or sugar – i’m diabetic ) .

    Reply
  23. I grew up (in Sweden) eating Nyponsoppa (rosehip soup) a lot. Still one of my favorites. It’s a sweet “soup” and can be eaten hot or cold. We’d put, okay bear with me through this, a splash of heavy whipping cream in it (without stirring), then ströbröd (breadcrumbs, like Panko, I think) on top.

    I know. It sounds insane. But oh, my goodness….it is heavenly. And now all I want it Nyponsoppa.

    Reply

Leave a comment