Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Blog, Media | 58 comments


Rose hips glow like rubies in the fading colors of autumn. They are red to orange colored, round and fleshy – pregnant with a belly of seeds. These tiny jewels bestow a wealth of medicine to those who take time to harvest them.  They are easy to dry in baskets or paper bags. Make them into a delicious tea that is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Identifying and Using Rosehips

Most rose plants have hips that are useable including all of our northwest native roses, rugosa rose, cabbage roses, and heirloom varieties. Avoid gathering rosehips from plants that have been treated with herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers unless they are organic. Domesticated roses have much larger hips but they are usually not as flavorful or medicinal as wild varieties.

Rugosa Rose

Nootka Rose

The Creation Story of a Rosehip

In spring rose plants form tightly fisted buds that are protected by green leaf-like sepals. These unfurl to reveal soft petals that bloom into fully developed flowers. Roses attract insects and other pollinators with their bright colored petals, fragrance and sweet nectar. And why do they do this? One reason is that they need pollinators to reproduce – a common urge across species.

Wild roses have five petals, while garden varieties can have numerous rows of petals. All rose flowers share similar characteristics in the center of the petals. They have a single thick pistol right in the middle (female part), surrounded by many thin stamens (male part). Each stamen has a little sack of pollen at the tip. The top of the pistol has a sticky bulb that can catch pollen. This narrows into a tube that leads down into an ovary. The ovary has several compartments that are filled with ovules.

Let’s get some action. A bee flies into the center of a rose to drink nectar. While taking in the sweetness, its fur rubs against the pollen-filled sacks on the stamens and then brushes pollen on the tip of the pistol. Microscopic pollen grains travel down the tube and into the ovaries where they fertilize the ovules. These swell into seeds.

Once the flower is fertilized, the petals begin to wither and fall off. The base of the flower develops to protect the growing seeds. The outer flesh becomes orange to red and sweet. This attracts birds and other animals that eat the ripe fruit and deposit seeds near and far. Thus, a new rose plant is born.

Eating Rosehips

Rosehips are sought after by birds, squirrels, rabbits, wild game, bears and humans alike. Their outer flesh tastes like a cross between tart apple, plum and rose petal. They are delicious. But here is the catch – people cannot eat the hairy inner seeds of rosehips because they irritate our intestines. Other animals and birds can eat them with no ill effect and benefit from the many nutrients including essential fatty acids. We humans have these options:

Pretend you are a squirrel and gingerly eat the red fleshy part from the outside while avoiding the seeds. My 3-year old daughter has become an expert at eating rugosa rose hips. She cannot get enough of the sweet and tart fruit that is almost jam-like. This is much easier to accomplish on larger varieties of rosehips.

Deseed rosehips by cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds with a tiny spoon or round-tipped knife. This is a labor of love that I have not had time for in years. Friends, including herbalist Heidi Bohan, swear that once you get in a rhythm it is easy to do and well worth it.
Make rosehip jelly or syrup and strain out the seeds. You can find some great recipes online or in herbal books.
Buy dried deseeded rosehips. These can be made into a delicious jam or can be added to a variety of dishes including soups, sauces and desserts. Add to wet ingredients or rehydrate by mixing with a little water so they are not hard in baked goods. You may be surprised to find that powdered rosehips add depth and tartness to chili or black bean soup.

You can purchase dried rosehips in herb stores, food co-ops, and online from herb distributors like Mountain Rose Herbs. Sort through them on a plate to make sure seeds and stems are removed. I like to grind them up into a fine powder in a coffee grinder before using them in cooking. Here are two of my favorite rosehip recipes:

Cranberry Rosehip Relish

1 12oz. bag of cranberries
1 cup fresh rosehips or 1/2 cup of dried rosehips (cleaned, seeds removed)
The juice of 1 orange
Honey, agave nectar or sugar added to desired sweetness

In a medium-sized pan gently heat cranberries, rosehips and orange juice until the cranberries and rosehips are soft and cooked. Add honey or other sweetener to taste. You will be surprised at how much you need to add to counteract the bitterness and tartness of the cranberry. Let the relish cool before serving it and keep refrigerated for up to several weeks.

Easy Rosehip Jam

I originally learned this recipe from Tracy Bosnian and Cascade Anderson Geller about 15 years ago, and it has become part of my family’s regular cuisine. It is one of the easiest and most delicious recipes I know!

  1. Spread rosehips out onto a plate and remove any remaining seeds or stems.
  2. Grind rosehips into a fine powder in a coffee grinder.
  3. Add apple cider or apple juice to the powder until it forms a jam consistency.  Let sit 5 minutes and add more fluid as needed.
  4. Optional – Add honey or other sweetener to taste.
  5. Place in a jar and serve immediately or refrigerate.

Use as a spread on fruit, bread, cakes, or cookies. This will last two weeks when refrigerated, and you can also freeze it. Rosehip jam is a tasty way to deliver Vitamin C to your family during the cold season. You can modify the recipe by adding cinnamon powder, vanilla, orange peel, and other spices.  You can also add other juices like raspberry or tart cherry concentrate.

Rosehip Seeds – Itching Powder?

One day a group of summer youth interns and I were deseeding rosehips at the Skokomish Healing Garden. My friend Sonja Gee shared that when she was growing up in Germany kids would make an itching powder by grinding up the seeds of rosehips and then sprinkle it down other children’s shirts. We all got a laugh out of this, but a week later the director of the program was reaching up on the top of refrigerator and found a cookie sheet of drying rosehips that the youth had sneaked past us. Luckily, it did not drop all over her!

Rosehip Seed Oil

A few years ago I discovered rosehip seed oil as an ingredient for making lotion, salve and skin oil. While this is not something we can make at home, I have totally fallen in love with it and incorporate it into my cosmetics. I have purchased it from Aubrey Organics, Mountain Rose Herbs and Majestic Mountain Sage. Much of what is on the market comes from Chile, where rose has been a beloved medicine since time immemorial. Chileans have pressed wild rose seeds to extract the oil for many generations. It has historically been used for healing skin problems, reducing aging spots and wrinkles, and hydrating dry skin. Science has confirmed this traditional knowledge. Rosehip seed oil is high in Vitamins A an E along with essential fatty acids. It can be used directly on the skin or it can be added to other cosmetics.

Rosehip Medicine

Rosehips are so loaded with nutrients that they can be considered a super food. They contain the Vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K, and minerals including calcium, silica, iron, and phosphorous. Rosehips are particularly high in bioflavenoid rich antioxidants including rutin that help strengthen our heart and blood vessels, and prevent degeneration of tissue. They contain carotenes including lycopene that have been linked with cancer prevention. Natural pectin found in rosehips is beneficial for gut health.

Perhaps the most common use of rosehips throughout history has been for prevention and treatment of colds and flu. Wild varieties have the highest concentration of Vitamin C, with some estimates reporting 30-50 times the Vitamin C of oranges. During WWII oranges could not be imported into Britain and Scandanavia so about 500 tons of rose hips were collected and made into “National Rose Hips Syrup” that were distributed as a nutritional aid by the Ministry of Health. Natural health stores carry many types of rosehip remedies including teas, syrups and capsules. Most grocery stores now carry rosehip tea.

Drying Rosehips

Harvest rosehips in autumn when they are bright red or orange. They get sweeter after the first frost but you run the risk of them getting brown spots soon after.  Pick hips on a dry day to prevent molding. They are easy to remove from the plant with a little twist. I place them in a flat basket and process them by pinching off the brown sepals. This leaves a little hole in the hip that serves as ventilation for the drying process. Leave them single layered in a basket or paper bag in a dry room with good airflow. Keep them out of direct sunlight. Move them around every day and wait until they are completely dry before placing them in a storage container like a glass jar. This can take up to 10 days. You can also deseed rosehips to dry them if you have the time.

Rosehip Tea

Use 1 heaping teaspoon of rosehips per cup of boiled water and steep 15 minutes. Some people prefer to boil rosehips, which makes a stronger, darker brew. While you will lose Vitamin C content with boiling, it may increase extraction of minerals and pectin.

One of my favorite winter teas is “Rose Mint” — a combination of rose petals, rosehips, peppermint, and spearmint. It has a sweet and lively flavor that even dubious herbal tea drinkers enjoy. Cheers!

See the post on Wild Rose Flower for more information about northwest roses           


  1. Thank you for the beneficial information. I did not realize rose hips are this full of nutrients.

  2. I have found that cutting a ripe rosehip in half and drying it, then putting the dried hip into a container and shaking, then sieving it in a colander is the best way to extract the seeds from the flesh. This method has the added advantage that the hairs all clump together so if you want to make oil from the seeds, they are already separated from the hairs.

    • Great! How do you get the oil once you have the seeds?

      • Rosehip seed oil is pressed from the seeds and you need a very large amount and a hydraulic press to do this. I buy the pre-made oil. Mountain Rose Herbs is one source.

    • This is a GREAT idea! much quicker than de-seeding each one. Thank you.

  3. will you get the same results by putting fresh picked rosehips in the freezer as a natural frost in nature

    • I am not sure about that but I am guessing not. If it is a wet year I harvest even before the frost or they will turn brown and get spotted.

    • No, the sugars are produced while the plant is growing. Once it is picked it can no longer get sugars from the roots.

  4. Why can’t we make rose hip seed oil at home? I’ve been saving all my rose hips hoping to make an oil to help with scars. I guess maybe because I’m having a horrible time finding out how to make the oil that perhaps it isn’t possible.

    • It takes a huge amount of seeds to press out the oil and it also takes a lot of pressure. I have not heard of anyone being able to make it at home. Sorry!

      • I was looking for Rosehip Oil Press Machine for my business.You can find on size and price.

      • You can infuse a carrier oil with the dried hips. I use Sunflower oil. You put the dried hips in the oil and place in a windowsill for 4 to 6 weeks at least. The sun rays will break down the chemical bonds of both the oil and the hips, causing them to join together. This is an old folk method that works very well (I have a batch that is ready but I think I’ll take out the old hips and re-infuse with fresh ones. Amazing for the skin!!

        • Thanks for this brief comment, I am harvesting wild rose hips today, my plan is to do a low heat (120 for 4 hours) infused oil (sweet almond/jojoba blend) with the entire fruit + seed, macerated. I appreciate the knowledge you shared about the fusion of the properties of the seed + fruit body . Thanks again

        • Laura, did you remove the seeds first before you infused in the oil? Or did you use the whole dried rose hip?

        • Do you leave the rosehips whole or do you powder them?

          • If you want to make tea, you can dry them whole. I do not powder them because they are full of seeds. Deseeded rosehips can be powdered.

      • I’m confused..there are many recipes online for creating rosehip oil by gently heating in a carrier oil for 8 hours. Is this valid?

        • Hi Jacqui. You can infuse rosehips in oil, which is nourishing and some people use it for making topical salves and creams. This is called an infused herbal oil. In the blog post I am taking about the oil that is pressed from rosehip seeds, which is very concentrated and full of nutrients including Vitamin E. You need a lot of rosehip seeds and a very strong press to extract that. Think of pressing olive pits to make olive oil…

          • Actually, the fruit is pressed whole, and the oil is extracted from the meat, not the pits. The oil is intermingled with water when they first press the olives. They separate this and any solids out to get olive oil. In Italy, they use the pits for firewood, and the water to water the olive trees. So nothing goes to waste.

    • Jill – just an idea – you might try making a vinegar extract (with ACV) and try it diluted with a little water on your scars .. like a tonique and let it air dry. …. (put dried rosehip in a jar and pour raw organic ACV over top .. it should completely cover the rosehips .. go for a 1:1 by volume ratio to make a strong extract or a little more ACV as a lot of pectin will be created. .. (try to fill to top of jar to leave less room for air.. will make a stronger/better medicine).. cover with wax paper and a lid… the extract shouldn’t be touching the metal or that will leach in. .. shake every day or when you remember .. label and store in a dark cabinet for 1 lunar cycle or longer. .. then press it out with cheesecloth or alternative…

  5. Hi I cut my rose hips in half and de seeded them and then I left then in my craft room to dry. It’s been a few weeks though. Is it ok to put them in a storage jar now or have they been sitting out for too long? Thanks!

    • Hi there. 2 weeks should be fine if it is a dry room. Make sure they are not flexible and are completely dry. I have put them in a jar too early and it is such a bummer to have all that hard work go to waste!

  6. Thanks so much for this comprehensive article. I’ve learned so much and am harvesting rose hips for the first time. Being mid-January, it may be too late to get optimal results, though.
    I’m find it difficult to remove all the hairs along with the seeds, so I’m going to try Lee’s method of drying the cut hips, then shaking the seeds and hairs out.

  7. For Cranberry Rosehip Relish, do you recommend using fresh cranberries or dried cranberries ? Am using dried rose hips for this recipe.

    • I use fresh cranberries. Dried rose hips are great as long as they are deseeded. Have fun!

  8. Great artical on rose hips. Has anyone ever try a food dehydrator?

    • Food dehydrators work great for rose hips!

  9. Thanks

  10. This is only the second blog that I’ve read and I’ve fallen in love with this site. We have lots of hips on a piece of waste ground near us so I’ll be out there today gathering! Thank you Elise. And thank you for all the great comments that have added personal insights and ideas (and warnings for learner-foragers like me!)

  11. Can I ask re: the Jam recipe, how have you prepared the rise hips prior to stage 1?
    & are you using them uncooked?

    • This recipe for easy rose hip jam is with dried deseeded rose hips. You can also use fresh rose hips to make jelly and need to cook them and put them through a food mill to remove the seeds. You can even mix them with hawthorn or apple. There are several good recipes online and I will share my favorite once I am done experimenting this year.

  12. I found a patch of wild roses filled with small rose hips can i put them in the juicer or do the seeds need to be removed first. The hips are small and the seeds seem large for the size of the hips.

    • You can either make a jelly and strain out the seeds in a food mill or jelly bag, or you can dry the whole hips and make them in tea. Just pinch off the brown sepals at the base if there are any so that the rose hip can dry well inside. Removing the seeds out of small rose hips is tricky and time consuming! Have fun and enjoy.

      • So it’s OK to make tea out of rosehips without removing the seeds?

        • Yes it is fine. I simply pinch off the sepals but do not remove the seeds when I dry rose hips for tea.

  13. Hi, I have been trying to buy some rosehips but just keep coming up against a brick wall. however when walking my dog the other day I saw some but it is now January, so I wondered if they were still ok to harvest? I want to dry them and add as an ingredient to food. Thanks

    • Hi Toni. If the rosehips are still firm and red without a lot of spots they are fine to harvest. When you open them up you should see the seeds and not mold. You can also get them from Mountain Rose Herbs online. Good luck!

  14. how did you find out that rosehips cause irritation? I am studying rosehips for my third year project at university and cannot find any scientific papers that document this

    • It is the hairy seeds on the inside of the hip that cause irritation. I have never seen anyone recommend eating them, and I know that when you powder them, they cause skin irritation. Is that what part you are asking about?

  15. Hello. Is there a way i can infuse dry rosehips into a carrier oil or do they have to be fresh? Also i see rosehip seed oil around. Is that different than rosehip oil?

    • I have not infused rose hips in oil before. If you want to get the nutrients and flavenoids out of the hips, I would use them fresh, shop them and then very gently heat them in oil. Let me know how it works! The rose hip oil you see in stores is cold pressed from the seeds inside the hips and I think they would need to be finely ground and pressed with a lot of pressure to get any oil out.

  16. It’s June and my heritage has large red hips. Should I leave them, harvest, or deadhead? Thanks

    • If they are from last year, you can just deadhead them and wait for the new ones this year. I am surprised they are so persistent!

  17. The benefits of Rose Hips and the oil are so amazing!!! I want so, to use this wonderful gift of nature to boost mine and my family’s Vitamin C intake!
    There is actually a whole 1/2 acre of Wild Rose bushes near to my home in the rural area where we live. With NO spraying of glyphosate (YUK! Round Up!)etc But the Rose Hips are much smaller than any of the photos here or there that I’ve seen.
    There are an abundance of them in Autumn, right now!
    I was wondering are these good to use, remove the seeds and eat the skins or outer shell?? Like the little girl above! Looks like an awesome way to get NATURAL Vitamin C!!
    Also, whats the best way to properly store the dried Rose Hips?
    And how long would you say they would stay usable or fresh?
    Please Answer! And Thanks!

    • Hi there and thanks for your enthusiasm. You do not need to remove the seeds to dry them for tea, just remove the sepals from the base of the hip. You can also make rose hip jelly and remove the seeds after you cook them. And… you can just carefully eat the outer part and avoid the seeds, but this works best for large rose hips.

  18. Thank you for all the info!5 years back I found a lonely tiny rose plant during a walk. I planted it is a rose BUSH 6 foot x 6 foot x 6 foot high! I have been gifTed with a growing batch of Beautiful yellow flowers. I will be harvesting the hips this year.

    • Wonderful! Some domestic roses including yellow roses are fragrant, and I find that these ones have more tasty rose hips that the roses that are not fragrant at all.

  19. Hi!
    How do we know when the hips are ripe?

    • They will be bright red or orange. If you nibble just a little off the outside they should taste tart and a little bit sweet, but not too astringent. Hope that helps.

  20. Happened upon your site/link while…searching for Rose Hip food values, application and harvesting techniques. My first ever serious effort to include them in my diet. My maternal ancestors were hunter gatherers as well as gardeners in Northern Canada, including of all kinds of plants and wild game. So from mother I witnessed their efforts as a child accompanying many berry picking trips. This is dear to my heart for me.
    On my recent harvest, I sniped the rose hips in late September with sissers, picked & cleaned then washed in a weak vinegar solution and set them on ice in the fridge. (That might be that frost effect..?) In a few days…much to my surprise they had hydrated themselves and looked like mini-grape tomatoes! Red, plump and semi-sweet!
    Today, that “labor of love” effort was completed. Separated the seeds, skin & meat producing about 3/4 cp of meat. I cooked the meat in 2/3 cp. of filtered water and 1/3 cup of maple syrup mashing as it cooked! The results? The most earthy sweet rich taste ever! I am going to puree the mixture and make rose hip fruit leather! Thanks for your insights as well spurring my cultural curiosity. I dedicate this recipe to “Mary Rose Emma” my special rose. God Bless!

    • What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Hello, thank you for all the information. I’m working on a story (fiction) and would like to have characters harvest rosehips (but in snowy wintertime – frozen on plant). I know that ideal time to harvest is last autumn after a frost. However, I’ve also seen a few posts by winter foragers saying that they do harvest rosehips midwinter, out in the snow. Do you have any opinion or information about this?

    • I do think that rosehips are harvested in the winter in some places. They just get moldy in our wet Washington climate, but stay more intact in colder climates.

  22. Hi there,
    Sorry if somebody asked this question. I briefly skimmed but didn’t take time to actually read all the Q&As..
    I have roses that bloom two or three times a year. There are tons of hips after this first bloom. Normally, I would go in and lightly prune the roses to reshape the bush a bit and get it ready for the next bloom, but Im interested in harvesting them and don’t want to lose these hips if they would turn red in the fall. Do you know if they would?

    • I am guessing they will turn red in the fall, but can’t be sure without knowing the variety of rose.

  23. Can i feed Reships to my horse with the seeds in ?

    • Great question. I don’t know the answer.

  24. What a truly wonderful blog.
    I learned so much from the Q&A section! Thank you Elise for your patient responses!!
    I look forward to more of your blogs.


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