Fall Foraging For Rosehips

What are rose hips and where can I find them?

You don’t have to look far to find prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) in the Bulkley-Nechako – in fact, odds are that there are probably plants within sight of your front door. Wild roses can be found throughout the province, often in clearings or aspen stands. The shrubs themselves can grow up to 1.5 metres tall, but quite often we find them around half that height. The stems are covered with many sharp prickles and have leaves that are divided into five to seven, double toothed leaflets. This time of year, the prickly plant’s telltale pink flowers have given way to dark red “hips” that can be round or pear-shaped.

While wild roses are found in abundance, many folks will find domesticated varieties in their yards. Although you should always take caution when foraging to avoid areas that have been sprayed or may be subject to heavy pollution, domestic roses can pose a particular risk as they are often treated before leaving the nursery and making their way to your garden. If in doubt, don’t harvest from that plant or area.

What are the benefits of rose hips?

Rose hips. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Rosehips are most well-known for their high vitamin C content, and it is said that you need only several rosehips to rival the amount found in one orange. They are also high in a variety of other vitamins and minerals, making them a great addition to your diet.

When can I harvest rosehips?

Autumn is the perfect time of year to harvest rosehips. They are at their best after the first light frost of the season, which helps to sweeten them, but before a hard frost hits them. Depending on where you live, there will probably be a good harvesting window from the beginning of September through to the middle of October. The first light frost turns rosehips bright red and they will soften slightly, you will know you have missed this window as rosehips hit by a hard frost will be almost mushy to the touch and difficult to pick.

How can I use rosehips?

Rose hip. Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.
Credit: Raeanne O’Meara.

Before getting into any specific techniques for using rosehips, it is recommended that the seeds of the fruits are removed. These little seeds are covered in hairs that are irritating to the digestive tract and should not be ingested. To remove the seeds, simply use a knife to cut the rosehip in half, and then take the tip of the knife to scrape out the seeds.

One of the most common uses for rosehips is dried for winter teas. There are several different methods to drying rosehips – for those with no fancy tools on hand, simply spread the halved rosehips in a single layer on a makeshift drying rack (or even a cookie sheet) and leave to air dry. You could also use your oven on the lowest setting, or a dehydrator if you have one available. To store for tea, place dried rosehips into a sealed container.

For those looking for other uses for rosehips, the options are nearly endless! You can make jams, jellies, syrups, sauces, oxymels (a mixture of honey and vinegar), or even candied rosehips.