All rose hips are edible and nutritious (offering one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C) but, as with any fruit, some taste better than others. I find the hips of rugosa and wild roses the most reliable and flavorful, though it’s worth taste testing any and all rose hips you may have growing in your garden — you never know, one could be a gem in the rough waiting to be discovered.

Harvest rose hips when they’re plumb and squishy and avoid fruit that is overly dry or moldy. Some say it’s best to harvest after the first frost in fall for the best flavor, but in my climate (USDA hardiness zones 9 to 10), this is often too late in the season and fruits are past their prime and beginning to turn. So don’t wait. Gather when hips look just right and plan to sift through pickings, throwing out any mildewy fruits before cooking or drying, and make sure fruit is organic and pesticide-free.

Dry rose hips to make tea, or cook them up into jelly or another, tangy treat. All require the same initial steps. First wash and tidy hips by removing dry flower parts and stems, leaving only the fruit. Next, you can take the time to de-seed hips by cutting them in half and scooping out seeds, or you can leave them as they are, cooking up the hips whole. Seeds are generally found to be high in tannins, making jellies slightly more bitter, but I find the difference in taste isn’t worth the effort of de-seeding fruits. In fact, the extra step of de-seeding is enough to discourage me from making jelly in the first place so I cook them up whole.

Think of the recipe below in proportions, adjusting as needed to meet the size of your harvest. Double it or halve it as necessary and don’t be too worried about precision or exact amounts. Also, I find I generally don’t have enough rose hips to warrant canning with hot water bath, so we eat the jelly fresh from the refrigerator and freeze the rest.

How to Make Rose Hip Jelly

What You Need

  • 4 cups rose hips
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 package pectin or half an apple *optional
  • 3 cups sugar

What You Do

  • Gather, clean, and remove stems and old blooms.
  • Place rose hips and water in a stainless steel pot (avoid aluminum) and cook hips on a low simmer until soft (about 20 minutes). If you’re using apple as a pectin source, put it in now.
  • Sterilize jars in your dishwasher or place jars and lids boiling water for 10 minutes, placing lids in a smaller pot on their own.
  • Once rose hips are soft, mash them using a potato masher then strain through a find mess sieve or cheese cloth, capturing the juice in a bowl.
  • Return rose hip juice to your pot, add lemon juice, pectin if you’re using it, and bring to a boil.
  • Add sugar and stir constantly while a rolling boil for 1 minute.
  • Skim off foam and fill jars while they’re still hot.
  • Refrigerate or freeze once cool. If you plan to can your jelly for long term storage, place jars in a hot water bath and follow instructions as given by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

What is a rose hip?

While I’m using the words rose hip and fruit interchangeably, a rose hip is not a fruit of its own the same way a simple berry or a cucumber is a fruit. It’s the seeds inside the rose hip that are the real fruit, each a tiny achene, which is small, dry one-seeded fruit. The fleshy exterior that we eat and use as a fruit is really the hypanthium or the swollen, cup-shaped part of the flower resting below the flower parts and holding the seeds (which remember are really individual fruits). Flowers and fruits are really quite marvelous when we take a closer look.

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