I’m harvesting the last cluster of ripe rose hips from my Rosa rugosa plants this week. I usually harvest homegrown rose hips in two batches – one pretty soon after the first or second frost when the hips start to feel a little softer and they look a little more translucent than they do before they’re ripe, and one more batch a couple weeks after that when the few clusters that weren’t ready yet the first time look ripe. When they’re ripe, their skin starts to feel a little bit like the skin of a ripe plum – fleshy, with a little bit of give to it, but not mushy like an overripe peach.
If you want to grow roses yourself so you can work with their petals and their hips in your kitchen and apothecary, I shared my favorite roses to grow in this post.
If you’re gathering wild rose hips, just about any species will do, but the rugosa roses will be much easier to work with. Their hips are much larger than most of the other species and with something like rose hips, the more usable fruit you can get for your time, the better. Rose hips take awhile to process, as you’ll see. It’s not that they’re difficult to process; it’s just that they take time and there aren’t any real shortcuts. For that reason, when I harvest hips, I usually harvest them from rugosa plants.
After you’ve harvested your rose hips, you’ll want to remove the sepals from the bottoms and any remaining stems from the tops, then give them a good rinse in clean water. I usually rinse a few times- until the water runs clear – to make sure mine are clean because I live in an urban neighborhood.
Once your rose hips are clean, prepare three bowls – one to place your seeds and pulp in and another to place the usable fruit in. The last bowl will be your working bowl. Fill it with a couple inches of water. It’s a lot easier to process rose hips when they’re wet.
Rose hips are filled with seeds and fine hairs that can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, so when we process rose hips, we remove all of those hairs and seeds from the fruit so all we’re left with is the fruit pulp and skin.
Using your fingers, split your rose hips down the middle while keeping your fingers and the rose hip you’re working with under water. Use your thumb to scoop / scrape out the seeds and hairs and transfer what remains – the skin and fruit – to one of the bowls. As you continue working, you’ll get to a point where the working bowl with water in it has enough rose hip hairs in it to irritate your skin a bit as you work. When that happens. Pour your working bowl’s contents through a strainer (if you’re wanting to save the seeds), refill the working bowl with water, and continue.
You can see what the seeds and hairs look like once they’ve been removed from the fruit in the photo below. If you’re planning on saving seeds, you’ll need to separate out the seeds from the hairs next. You can do this by swishing the seed/hair mixture through a sieve with holes large enough to let the hairs pass through, but small enough to leave the seeds behind. Lay your seeds out on a tea towel in a single layer to allow them to dry before storing.
Once you’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful bowl full of rose hip fruit! You can now either spread the fruit out in a single layer to dry, stick it in a dehydrator to speed up the process, or work with the rose hips fresh. I like to work with my homegrown rose hips fresh, so at this point I’ll usually either make rose hip vinegar or rose hip syrup.
Rose hips are high in vitamin C, which is soluble in vinegar and sensitive to heat, so I like to make rose hip vinegar and use that as a tonic during the cold and flu season. To make it, place your rose hips in a glass jar, cover with raw apple cider vinegar, and allow to infuse in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. You can then strain out the fruit pulp and compost it (or dehydrate it, feed it to the chickens, mash it up and use it to make a sauce or spread, etc.) and add honey to taste. Keep the mixture in the fridge and take a teaspoon to a tablespoon a day diluted in a bit of water or juice as a nutritional supplement.
For added vitamin C, try mixing in other vitamin-C rich fruits in your vinegar infusion – amla fruit, orange or lemon, cherry…you can play with fruits and flavors to create something entirely your own!
Have you ever harvested rose hips before? I’d love to hear about your own experience in the comments section below.
This month, the special bonus resource I’ve put together for my Insiders Group is an exclusive list of some of my favorite old herbals and materia medicas. They can be hard to find and expensive when you do find them, but through the years, I’ve been able to gather digital versions of them through various archives. I’ve put my favorites into one comprehensive list with links to where you can download them for yourself for free in this month’s bonus. To receive your copy, you’ll need to sign up for my Insiders Group (it’s free – just enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this post, confirm your email address, and then it will be automatically delivered to your inbox). Insiders, your copy is inside your monthly newsletter email this week. I hope you enjoy it!