Radiant Rose Hips: How to Harvest, Dry and Use Rosehips
Curious about rose hips? Come learn all about them! This article will teach you how to harvest, dry, and use rose hips – plus provide a little background, so you can better understand how awesome they really are! Rose hips are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, and offer a wide array of natural health benefits. This makes them an excellent addition to homemade body care products, teas, jellies, medicinal oils, syrups and more. Not to mention, they’re really beautiful!
As a gardener, I’ve truthfully never been that keen on growing roses. Nor are wild roses very common around here. So my access to fresh rose hips was previously limited… until now! Roses grow all along the front fenceline of our new homestead, so we were thrilled to harvest and use our very first homegrown hips this season.
What are rose hips?
Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Every rose blossom that is left unpicked will eventually develop a berry-like hip after the flower fades away! Rose hips are red to orange in color, round or oblong, about the size of a grape, and very, very firm. Each hip contains rose seeds inside, along with hundreds of little fuzzy hairs.
All varieties of roses (Rosa species) produce hips, and all of them are edible and medicinal! However, shrub roses (Rosa rugosa) are rumored to produce the most delicious and abundant hips. Shrub roses can be cultivated but are often found growing in the wild too – prime for foraging. Truth be told, Rosa rugosa is considered an invasive species. It has a preference for coastal dune climates, and is now naturalized along the entire coast of New England as well as parts of the Pacific Northwest. They’re sometimes referred to as beach tomato, beach rose, or saltspray rose.
If you’re not able to pick fresh hips of your own, you can buy organic whole dried rose hips here, or organic dried seedless (cut) ones here.
Are rose hips edible?
Yes, rose hips are edible – but with a little catch! The tiny hairs inside the hips are irritating to people’s mouths and intestines when ingested. So, the best way to prepare the hips will depend on how you intend to use them (discussed more to follow). For use in tea, most folks leave them whole to avoid the hairs completely. In addition to us humans, squirrels, birds, bears, rabbits and other wildlife enjoy dining on rose hips as well.
What do rose hips taste like, you wonder? When ripe, rose hip flesh is floral and slightly sweet, but has a distinct tang. I’ve heard the flavor of rose hips described as a cross between tart apple and plum, with hibiscus-like notes or a hint of rose petal, and even reminiscent of raw pumpkin.
Nutritional Value and Medicinal Benefits
Rose hips have been used in herbal tea, natural health supplements, and recipes for centuries. They’re renowned for their high levels of natural antioxidants and vitamins, including Vitamins C, E, B, F, carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols. In fact, studies show that rose hips contain even more robust concentrations of antioxidants than other well-known antioxidant rich fruits, such as blueberries, black currants, hawthorn berry, chokeberry, or rowanberry. Likewise, rose hips can contain 10 to 40 times more Vitamin C than oranges!
Medicinally, rose hips can play a role in reducing inflammation, free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to conditions such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and inflammatory disorders. They also strengthen your immune system.
All these antioxidants and vitamins also work wonders for your skin! When applied topically, rose hip oil (or other rosehip products) can help to restore moisture, protect against sun damage, reduce hyperpigmentation, soothe redness and eczema, and fight acne. Rosehips contain retinoids (trans retinoic acid) which helps regulate the production of new skin cells and prevent clogged pores. Vitamin F (or linoleic acid) helps reduce inflammation, dermatitis, and psoriasis while also locking in moisture. All in all, they can make your skin radiant!
How to Harvest Rose Hips
Rose hips develop in summer to early fall, typically ripening in the fall to early winter. When ripe, the hips will darken in color, changing from lighter orange or pink into a deeper red or red-orange. Some rose varieties may even turn purple or black. The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first light frost, but before a hard freeze damages them. A kiss of frost will actually make them taste sweeter!
Harvest rose hips when they’re fully ripe but still firm. It’s okay if they’re ever-so-slighty soft to the touch (think about checking the firmness of an avocado), but avoid harvesting hips that are mushy, wrinkled, or damaged. Also avoid harvesting rose hips from plants that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals during the growing season.
To harvest rose hips, simply trim them off the plant with a pair of scissors or garden snips, cutting the stem just above the top of the hip. Prick-proof gloves will make the job more comfortable if you’re working in a particularly thorny rosebush.
How to Prepare Rosehips for Cooking
For edible or cooking applications (such as making rose hip jelly or syrup), you’ll want to remove the irritating seeds and hairs that are inside before consuming them. Note that some recipes allow you to leave the seeds/hairs in tact while cooking and then strain them out afterwards, so check your chosen recipe!
- Start by washing your hips, and then trim off both the blossom and stem ends. You’ll notice they’re very hard to cut, so be careful and use a sharp knife!
- Next, cut the hips in half and scoop or scrape out the hairs and seeds. I find using the rounded tip of a butter knife works quite well. Also be sure to discard any mushy or spoiled ones at this time.
- Finally, you could give them a final rinse under water in a colander to remove any leftover hairs.
- Now your hips are ready to use in any recipe that calls for fresh rose hips! Or, proceed to the next steps to learn how to dry rose hips for future use – or to use in homemade rosehip-infused oil.
How to Dry Rose Hips
Drying rose hips is an excellent way to preserve them. There are many ways to use dried rose hips, and they last for a long time in storage – well over a year! Plus, if you intend to make homemade rosehip infused oil, it’s best to dry them first since the moisture in fresh rose hips can make the oil spoil.
Before drying rose hips, decide if you want to keep them whole, cut them in half, and/or remove the seeds and hairs first (following the instructions above). For instance, you can leave rose hips whole if you intend to use them for tea or certain infusions. Though it’s a bit of extra work, I prefer to cut them in half so the inner flesh and oils can better infuse into whatever I’m making, from tea to salve. They also dry more quickly when cut in half. Removing the seeds and hairs before drying may not be necessary for topical infusions – especially those that will be thoroughly strained before use.
In this particular batch, I de-seeded and cleaned about half of them before drying, ideal for tea or edibles. Then I admittedly got lazy (cleaning them can be a tad tedious!) so I left the other half with the seeds and hairs intact. After drying, you can shake the dry rosehips in a jar and then sift them in a sieve (fine mesh strainer) to remove most of the remaining hairs, though I find the seeds largely stay put.
Three different ways to dry rose hips:
- Air dry. In the right conditions, you may be able to passively air dry fresh rosehips. Simply spread them out (whole or cut) on a tray or fine herb-drying screen for several weeks to dry. This works best in arid warm conditions. Cool or damp conditions may cause the fruit to mold rather than dry.
- Oven dry. Spread the prepared hips in a single layer on a wide shallow baking pan. Bake them on the lowest heat setting possible for several hours, until they’re completely dry and brittle.
- Food dehydrator. This is how we like to dry rose hips. The “low and slow” drying process retains the maximum therapeutic compounds, but eliminates the risk of mold from air drying. Spread the hips out in a single layer on your dehydrator trays and dry them on a low temperature setting until fully dry. It takes about 24 hours in our favorite Excalibur dehydrator on the “raw foods” setting (about 100°F).
Store dried rose hips in a cool dark place inside an air-tight container with a lid, such as a mason jar.
Ways to Use Rose Hips
- Use them in tea (fresh or dried), on their own or mixed with other herbs. Rose hips pair exceptionally well with citrus, lemongrass, other berries, dried apples, and honey. Use a couple teaspoons or one tablespoon of rosehips per cup of water for tea. Check out my favorite stainless steel loose-leaf tea infuser (single mug), or our favorite glass loose-leaf teapot for two here.
- Add them to homemade elderberry syrup or fire cider for even more immune support!
- Make rosehip jelly, jam, or syrup.
- Learn how to make rosehip infused oil here, plus 12 ways to use it! Rosehip oil has many uses straight on its own, or as an ingredient in other body care products like homemade calendula salve, lavender salve, soap, or natural lip balm. I love to soak rose hips in argan oil and use it as facial moisturizer.
- Juice the hips, and use the juice fresh or to flavor kombucha.
- Create a medicinal honey.
- Add them to bone broth or homemade vegetable broth. The flavor is mild enough to not negatively impact the broth as long as they’re used in moderation.
- Make rose hip vinegar.
- Macerate dried rose hips with a mortar and pestle (or food processor) and add the powder to baked goods or desserts.
And that concludes this lesson on radiant rose hips.
I hope you enjoyed learning all about rosehips today, and are excited to prepare some healing concoctions of your own! Perhaps some of you will be fortunate enough to forage for wild rose hips in your area. (Jealous!) Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Or, if I missed any of your favorite ways to use rose hips – please share! Also feel free to spread the love by sharing or pinning this article. We’re so grateful that you tuned in.
You may also love:
- How to Make Soothing Homemade Lavender Salve
- How to Make Homemade Calendula Oil (or Calendula Salve)
- Fire Cider Recipe for Immune Health
- How to Make Rosehip Infused Oil, Plus 12 Ways to Use It
- Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe
- Natural Lip Balm Recipe
First time rose hip harvester here.
I’m curious about using rose hips in broth. I am making bone broth and would love to add some rose hips in. Should they be dried? Approximately how much should I add in? Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Kristin, yes you can use rosehips in broth and you can either use them fresh or dried. Be sure to remove the seeds and hairs as they can be an irritant to your throat and mouth, if you only wanted to heat the rosehips in the broth and strain them out at the end, you could most likely wrap them up in cheesecloth, similar to a tea bag and let them cook in the broth that way, hopefully keeping some loose hairs contained. How much you want to add likely depends on the amount you have on hand, it seems the Swedish are well know for making rosehip soup, although it is considered a dish more on the sweet side. If you are making a large batch of broth (2-3 gallons), I would imagine 1-2 cups dried rosehips or 2-4 cups fresh would work although you may want to err on the lighter side until you know how much the rosehips affect the flavor of your broth and if it is a flavor profile you are going for. Hope that helps and good luck!
Regarding drying rosehips – I’m wondering if I can dry them whole, rather than cut in 1/2.
I have a BUNCH of very small rosehips, and cutting in 1/2 is going to be crazy tedious.
I know it will take longer to dry, and maybe even take longer to soak in the oil? But if those are the only down-sides I think I’m in.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Kathy, since you want to use the rosehips to make an oil, cutting them in half would help increase the surface area while also exposing the seeds to the oil which contain many benefits as well. Although, I think using them whole is still a viable option for you if you don’t want to mess with the extra tedious work of breaking them down further. You should still end up with a really nice oil to use. Hope that helps and good luck with your oil!