Rose hips are the seed pods of roses. 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.
Both rose hips and rose petals are edible. Roses are in the same family as apples and crab apples, so the resemblance of their fruits is not purely coincidental. 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. Lucky for us Alaskans, they are the ones that grow wild in abundance. Caution: Don’t use rose hips from plants that have been treated with a pesticide that is not labeled for use on edibles.
The best time to harvest 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 hips for the birds. 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 be killed back at the first frost. You can use whole, fresh rose hips, but the seeds inside have an irritating, hairy covering that is recommended you remove 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 on. Now rinse off the hips and prepare as you choose. You can store rose hips in the freezer, made into jelly, or dried. When storing them, be sure to not use a metal container, the fruit acids and the metal do not mix well. Cooking in aluminum will destroy their vitamin C.
Rose hips make great jellies, sauces, soups and seasoning. To get a sense of the taste of rose hips, start out brewing yourself a cup of tea.
Rose Hip Tea: You can use fresh or dried rose hips, for a simple rose hips tea. You’ll need about twice as many hips, if using fresh. For fresh rose hip tea, steep 4-8 hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Once used as a folk remedy for chest ailments, Rose hips were popular in the Middle Ages. They are a natural source of vitamin C, which has led to their widespread use in natural vitamin supplements, teas, and various other preparations including soups and marmalade’s. Rose hips were also used as mild laxatives and diuretics. Rose hip syrup was used as a nourishing drink for children and to flavor teas and jams. Because of the high vitamin C content they are an excellent immune system booster, and are often used as a supplement to prevent or treat a cold. It has also been used to improve, and relieve the symptoms of kidney disorders. It can help to prevent infections from both bacteria and viruses.
Rose hips are one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C measuring about 2000 mg per 3.5oz compared to most Citrus fruits that contain approximately 50 mg. In addition to vitamin C, rose hips also contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and K. Other ingredients include pectin, tannins, flavonoids and carotenoids.
The astringent qualities of rose hip oil makes it useful in cosmetic preparations as is doesn’t dry out the skin; actually it helps to rehydrate it, keeping the moisture in. It has the ability to help regenerate new skin cells. This can be used to treat scars, acne and burns. Drinking rose hip tea daily will also benefit your skin.
Rose hips are high in vitamin A which is commonly referred to as the “skin vitamin”. It can help regenerate skin cells, benefiting wounds and scars. It also is reported to keep the skin elastic and nourished. This will not only help prevent wrinkles, but can actually help to minimize any that have already appeared.