by Susan Michaud
Just as the gardens are wrapping up and the berries have become jam, after those first frosts, rose hips are ripe and ready to enjoy.
Wild roses can be found across Colorado and the US. Their 5 petaled flower and thorny stems make them easily recognizable in the spring and summer. This is when foragers should find their autumn stash of rose hips, which are the fruit of the rose plant, forming after the flower has faded.
Rose hips are red-orange and are best picked after the first frost when they are sweet and tender. The darker the red, the riper. Although the most common rose hips are red or orange, there are also rose hips that are purple, brown, or black.
The thin layer of flesh surrounding the seed is high in vitamin C. Eaten raw, they taste somewhat like a gummy. One can simply pick the hip and use the thumb and forefinger to squeeze out the seeds, which can be irritating. In this way, only the pulp is eaten. If the hips are too hard and not ripe, you will not be able to squeeze out the seeds. If the hips are overripe, squeezing them will produce mush.
There are many ways to use and preserve rose hips.
Freezing rose hips
Here are 2 ways:
1) Wash them and put the whole rose hips in a plastic bag or container, or
2) Wash them, cut them in half, and place them in a plastic bag. A huge benefit of cutting them in half is that when they are taken out of the freezer, they can be smashed in the plastic bag against a kitchen table or counter. In this way, the seeds are separated from the pulp.
Drying rose hips
To dry rose hips, spread the hips out over baking trays and dry them in an oven or dehydrator set to 110 F until the hips are dry and brittle. Rose hips need 24-48 hours in the dehydrator to be sure they are completely dried and will not form mold.
To tell if they are completely dry, seal them in an airtight container and check the hips every 12 to 24 hours for moisture on the inside of the container. If moisture forms, return them to the oven/dehydrator. When completely dry, store them in airtight jars.
The dried rose hips can be made into a powder for tea to be used all year. After drying, place them in a food processor or blender and process them into powder. Place the rose hip powder in a sealed jar. Steep the powder in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain the tea through a fine mesh and reheat or add ice.
Rose hip juice
Rose hips are often mixed with other fruits, such as apples or cranberries. To extract the juice to make jelly or syrup, remove the blossom remnants and stems from the rose hips. Wash the hips in cool water. Add the rose hips to a pan, cover with water, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool, then strain through a cheesecloth into a container. One pound of rose hips equals about 2 cups of juice. The juice is then added to syrups or jellies. It can be used immediately or frozen for up to a year.
Rose hip tea
Fresh or dried, rose hips make a delicious, simple tea. Twice as many rose hips are needed if using fresh ones.
For fresh rosehip tea, steep four to eight rose hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t use aluminum pans or utensils that could discolor the hips; aluminum also destroys the vitamin C in rose hips. Stainless steel is fine.
Using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer will remove the seeds.
Rose hip BBQ Sauce
3 C rose hips, seeds removed
3 tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T allspice
2 carrots, diced
1 C white vinegar
1 C water
1 T birch syrup (optional)
½ C brown sugar
¼ t cayenne pepper
Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to a thick sauce. Apply to meat and grill.
Rose hips are also thought to be medicinal. Wild rose is an astringent, analgesic, and diuretic; however, if gathering them isn’t an option, health food stores carry rose hip teas and extracts.
“The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods” by Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.