While it hasn’t been a good year for rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, its been a great year for collecting wild rose hips! Rose hips, the fruit of the rose flower, are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and have a delicious sweet and tangy taste. They can be added to tea blends, infused in honey, or made into a yummy syrup. Here in my area, Rosa californica is the most abundant variety, but all rose species have similar qualities and can be used.
When to Collect
I started collected rose hips last fall, when they were bright red, and still hard and “unripe”. At this stage, they are still very bitter and astringent, and turn sweeter after the first frost. But, if you don’t want to wait for the first frost (or you don’t get a frost where you live), you can collect the hips and put them in the freezer overnight. When you take them out to thaw, they will be softer and sweeter!
How long the season lasts is dependent on weather, abundance, and local wildlife. Here in my area, wild rose is rampant, and this fall the rose plants were painted all over with bright, red berries. We had a good frost earlier in December, and now, although there are still plenty on the bushes, they are starting to fade in color (and nutrition) and get too mushy with age. This week I was able to collect about a cup of remaining bright red hips, and I plan to dry them for my home tea blends.
How to Collect
If you are going to collect rose hips (wild or cultivated) make sure you collecting from plants that have not been sprayed with chemicals! So many rose bushes are sprayed with pesticides. If you are going to collect from wild plants, first review these tips for safe and ethical wildharvesting. Gloves are handy, to protect yourself from thorns, and a clippers to cut the hips off. It can all be done with bare hands, but you’ll get scratched up pretty quickly! If you are going to dry them, let them sit in a brown paper bag (single layered) with some airflow, and out of direct light, until completely hard and dry.
The small hairs inside the rose hip can be irritating to some people. Sadly, I found this out that I was one of “these people” after making a pint of infused honey with chopped up rose hips – I couldn’t eat the honey without coughing from an irritated throat! So whenever I make any rose hip preparation for myself, I keep the rose hip intact, and dry them first, to reduce the possibility of letting out those little hairs!
What to do with them
Rose hips are one of the most concentrated plant sources of vitamin C, and a common ingredients in winter cold syrups. They are high in antioxidants, and have a tasty, tangy-sweet flavor. Most simply, they can be used to make tea, or cooked down into syrup or jelly (see a good herbal book if you need help on preparation methods). They can be tinctured and added to medicinal syrups or delicious cordials. They hold the most nutrition when they are bright red and fresh, and sweetest after they have been frosted.