Pretty Hip… Don’t You Agree?

Roses, of all the flowers, she probably signifies England the most. Featuring in fairy tales and folklore aplenty. But you know, it’s not just the flowers which have a special place in our history… The fruit of the rose deserves a crown too.

Rose Hips

When the rose petals fall come summer’s end, the fruit (or hips as we know them) start to develop. When autumn is well upon us and all the leaves have fallen, they are ready to harvest or just be admired – as you can see they are quite beautiful at this time of year 🙂 Roses grow best in cool/temperate climate conditions, so our weather does have it’s perks!

Did you know…

‘Rosary Beads’ are originally derived from the word rose hip, as the hips were once used to count prayers.

Due to the shortage of oranges in the war, an entire nation collected rosehips to make the famous ‘Rosehip Syrup’ – a vitamin C rich syrup, which would get them through the winter. It was so precious that most of it was reserved for Britain’s children.

Wild-harvesting Rosehips

In Britain we have over 100 rose varieties growing wild. They are often found in hedgerows, the margins of woodlands or rocky slopes (you often see them on railway tracks) and even urban wastelands. Some common wild roses are ‘Rosa canina’ (known as Dog Rose) or Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose), Rosa arvensis (Field Rose) or Rosa gallica (Apothecary’s Rose) as in the picture below. River Cottage Handbook number 7 has some great pics of the various roses and some good recipes to match…. All species of rose can be used medicinally, but those above are commonly used for their hips.

Rosehips are best collected in October/November, however you can find them throughout winter, well into February…. ideally armed with a pair of gardening gloves as she does have a thorny side Lady Rose. Best to do so after the first few frosts of the year – you can use them before but the cold seems to ripen/sweeten them and makes them easier to prepare too. Alternatively you can freeze them overnight after harvesting. Use fresh in the recipes below or dry them for later use.

You can’t really mistake them for anything else… red hips, thorny stems, packed with seeds and tiny hairs inside… Burnett Rose (R. pimpinelllifolia) is a bit different. The hips are black rather than red and they have an almost smoky flavour – Miles Irving describes it as chocolate/blackcurrant.

Like many of our autumn medicinal fruits, they are preceded by the equally medicinal flowers in the summer. Elderflowers give rise to Elderberries. Hawthorne blossoms to berries. Rose petals to Rosehips. Herbalists use all of these. This is why you should never pick all the blossoms off a tree, leave some to turn to fruit. As a general rule of thumb, I aim to pick no more than 1/3 of anything.

The garden variety? If you have roses in your garden then use a few of these hips! Some garden centre roses however don’t develop the ‘hips’. Just whatever you do, please don’t spray your prized flowers with chemicals/pesticides. This will not make for a healthy harvest.

Proper Preparation: A hairy topic

Beware of the hairs in Rosehips… Inside the shell of the fruit lie the seeds… all covered in tiny spiky hairs, a bit like fibreglass (fortunately for the plant but unfortunately for us) So one reason why you should not just pick one off & chew whole! This is the original source of ‘itching powder’ which kids have found amusement in for generations. Big kids… I don’t recommend you try 😉

Whilst it won’t kill you it can irritate the stomach and skin. I remember one particular day, on a walk by the seaside, when I was visiting my dad. We passed a load of rosehips & I was reeling off a list of their virtues, totally immersed & forgetting to tell him NOT to eat them whole. So of course he ate one whole – hairy seeds & all. For a few hours after he suffered with stomach pains, no doubt due to the tiny hairs irritating the lining. Sorry dad! The gripe of having a herbalist daughter I suppose….

Problem Solved…. Methods to de-fuzz!

  • To de-hair cut hips in half, scrape out then run under cold water. Wear gloves when doing this!
  • Shake dried halved and de-seeded hips in a sieve and shake vigorously to remove stray hairs.
  • Cook hips gently in water then mash up with a potato masher, cook another 15 mins then strain through double layer muslin cloth. Then get a new piece of double muslin and repeat. Use this as the base for your recipes.

Still can’t be bothered with all the Prep?

Though, if all the collection and prep seems like too much hard work – you can buy them as ready prepared dried shells from herbal tea suppliers (such as Neal’s Yard Remedies), as a powder or in capsule form (I like Viridian).

Using Rosehips – Flavourful Experiments

Now of course they have lots of nutrition and health benefits and of course I won’t hold back from telling you about these… But to start with lets just talk about Rosehips for the fun of it. The flavour and creations – including much loved recipes which span hundreds of years. Rose hips are sweet, sour and astringent, lending them not only to desserts and sweet treats but also to savoury dishes requiring a bit of a sweet zing, such as sweet and sour sauce or salad dressings/dipping sauces. There are loads of recipes out there from food to medicine to beverage.

Jams & Jellies – Syrup – Teas – Vinegars – Liqueurs – Wines – Sweets – Foods

As far as foods go, it’s whatever your imagination allows – soups, porridges, desserts, baking etc… In Sweden they make Rosehip wine and Rosehip Soup! (see recipe below) Rosehip jam is still a delicacy in Germany.

A Few Basic Recipes

Rosehip Brew

Of the tea kind not the beer… You can dry hips for use in teas: prepare them by cutting in half and scraping out the seeds as described. Leave for a few days/weeks to dry on a rack (an airing cupboard is ideal as it is a dry environment) and store in an airtight glass jar to add to teas as required. You can also use these hips for the recipes below, if you are too late for the fresh hips. Rosehips make any tea taste nicer and are especially good blended with other berries and citrus. Just add a tablespoon of hips per mug of boiling water and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Tip// you can save the used soggy hips to smoothies, porridge and baking. Waste not want not & all… OK I know I’m not selling it but they do taste sweet/sour after soaking and the hips still have some goodness left in them!

Rosehip Vinegar

Put a few handfuls or 200-300g in a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. You can also slit skins with sharp knife and leave for 2-4 weeks on a sunny windowsill to infuse. Note// When infusing vinegar do not use metal lids otherwise they will corrode. Strain then decant into sterilized bottles. To take mix a tablespoon or 2 with warm water (not boiling). This can be used as gargle for sore throat or drink for colds, sweeten with a little honey if required. Also use this in food as normal, eg. in salad dressings. Keeps 6 months to 1 yr.

The Famous ‘Rosehip Syrup’

Wartime Favourite. There are worse medicines than a syrup! A good way to make food your medicine.. and especially good for children as they will rarely put up a fight to take this one. Though don’t eat too much, as excess sugar will cancel out any benefits! 1-2 tsp each day is enough. This is a low dose of rose hip goodness. If you need a higher therapeutic dose, I would take a supplement (such as capsules or tea) Nevertheless this is convenient to keep in the fridge. Nice as a cordial, especially with sparkling water. Or pour over porridge, yoghurt, fruit salads, pancakes. Most syrups will keep for 6 months to 1 year unopened and up to a month once opened but of course, discard if any mould or unusual taste/smell develops. Japanese Rose (R rugosa) in particular have large juicy hips making them ideal for syrups and jams.

Boiled Syrups

These have a longer shelf life than the above, but at the expense of some of the vitamin C, which is heat sensitive. I prefer the recipes with more rosehips, less water and less sugar. Of course you can play around with the ratios. If you add less water you won’t have to reduce the liquid down for half an hour. Here is a starter recipe

Measure the volume of rosehips, pour into pan and add half that quantity of water. So if you have 500ml of hips add 250ml water. Some recipes utilize a blender/advise to chop up the rosehips before cooking but this is optional. Boil gently for 10 mins then cool, leave to infuse for 20 minutes and then strain through jelly/jam bag or double layer muslin (may take a while as it drips through). Now with this liquid for every cup of juice add half to one cup of sugar. Re-boil for another 5 minutes and while still hot pour into sterilised bottles – Kilner bottles are good for this. Label when cool and put the date on. Once opened keeps a week or 2 in the fridge. Unopened 6 months to 1 year. This is why it is better to decant into several smaller bottles/jars rather than 1 big bottle, so that you can use a little at a time.


Ratios… Play around with some different ratios to see which you prefer.

  • Half the amount of sugar to liquid. This is a commonly used ratio. For every cup of juice add half a cup of sugar. Less sugar, better for health but a shorter shelf life.
  • 350g sugar per 500ml liquid. More sugar but will have a longer shelf life
  • You can use less sugar but you will have to consume it within a week or 2

Additions: Try a combination syrup with elderberry. I’ve added a link to my Elderberry Syrup recipe at the end. Or add spices – cinnamon, ginger, lemon/orange zest, cloves, aniseed – these all work wonderfully, adding to the therapeutic effects and add extra flavour.

Raw syrup – No Heat Method

Gently score the skins of some hips – without cutting through to the seeds. Layer them in a wide jar – alternating with layers of sugar to fill the gaps. Leave on sunny windowsill for couple months. The sugar will draw the liquid from the hips. Strain this liquid and use within a few months. Because it is not heated more vitamin C is retained. But less of the carotenes are extracted (heat helps to extract carotenes). Store in the fridge and use within a few months.

Infusion Method (minimum boiling)

Or to make syrup infusion… make a strong diffusion/decoction of Rosehips – leave for up to an hour to infuse and then strain. To this liquid add sugar to ratio of 350g per 500ml liquid. Heat gently until sugar dissolved and store in fridge. Pros: retains more vitamin C than the boiling method. Cons? Does not extract as much of the other compounds, such as carotenes.

Zoe Hawes recipe from ‘Wild Drugs’

I like this method because it uses a 2 step process… reusing the rose hip solids to extract more constituents. However I would perhaps reduce the liquid and reduce the boiling time to 5 minutes max – to preserve more vitamin C. Anyway, here is her recipe:

Chop up 500g of rosehips or put in a blender. (best to freeze hips overnight to soften). Then add 1L of water and bring to the boil. Turn off heat now and cover for half an hour at least. Strain with muslin then put this liquid aside. Now get the rest of the pulp back in pan with another 500ml of water and bring to boil. Repeat method. Now combine both batches of liquid and boil until volume reduces by half. Add 500g of sugar then boil another few mins.

Naughtier… Rose Hip Brandy

My favourite: as pictured. Simply bash the Rosehips in a mortar & pestle, put into a jar and fill with brandy – cover the top to 1cm above the level of the hips. Add extra flavourings to your taste (I like ginger and cinnamon/cassia). EASY. Now just wait for a week or 2 then strain through double muslin cloth and enjoy – nice in cocktails… medicinal of course! These make nice Christmas gifts when decanted into little bottles.

Rose Hip jelly…

Make a stock with 300g rosehips and 1L water plus spices (ginger, lemon or whatever else takes your fancy)… Bring to gentle boil for 5 mins max. Remove from heat, leave overnight, strain in morning. Add extra sweetener to taste (sugar and boiled water) 100g sugar, around 2 tablespoons of gelatine (ready dissolved in a bit of the stock)

Rehydration Salts – from ‘Grow your Own Drugs’

Love this recipe for rehydration salts from the book. Based on the WHO’s formula. With ginger for nausea and vit C to pep you up. Rosehip powder… plus per 2 serves: 2tsp ground ginger, 1tsp citric acid, 2tsp bicarb soda, 3 tbsp glucose (or sugar?), 1 tsp sea salt. Basically a hangover remedy – perfect for the festive season! Makes 2L of formula (can half it) In an airtight jar, this dry mix will keep for 6 months. Once you mix with water drink within a day though…

Swedish Rosehip Soup

Miles Irving Forager has a recipe for Swedish Rosehip soup, to be sipped with cookies & ice cream?! 1L water, 250g sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, lemon zest, 500g rose hips. Boil water, sugar spices and lemon. Then drop in the 500g rosehips for 5 mins. Blitz then strain well with double muslin.

Next up – Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

In tomorrow’s Blog I’ll tell you exactly why you should include these native fruit in your diet….

Oh & as promised, here is a link to my Elderberry Syrup recipe: Hailing from ‘mother elder’ as she is known. Folklore says you should never cut down an elder tree for she is sacred and you will be cursed with bad luck. Though I am pretty sure she doesn’t mind you collecting a few of her berries/flowers…









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