Our Guide to Foraging
Rosa canina L.
The rose is well known for its prized beauty and fragrance, as well as its nutritional content and medicinal properties. Once it has flowered and autumn approaches, the petals fall to the ground and are replaced by the rose hips, ruby jewels that decorate the hedgerows and woodland edges.
How To Identify
Oval with a dark green tint and toothed edges, these leaves usually grow symmetrical and can be found in clusters of 3 – 9.
Many different sizes from oval to oblong, rose hips can vary in colour from red to orange with small wisps of hair poking out the bottom of the fruit and a small pip in the centre. The much loved garden roses are generally much larger, with a more bulbous hip compared to the smaller, more oblong wild rose hip.
When & Where
Commonly available throughout the UK, you’ll find wild rose bushes in hedgerows, roadsides and woodland edges – as well as cultivated roses in many gardens. A general rule of thumb would be to pick these berries when they are vibrant in colour, with no green showing.
Fruit | Autumn – Winter
Flowers | Summer
Rosehips have no toxic look-alikes, perfect for the beginner forager. If you know where you’ve seen a rose bush earlier in the season, you’ll have no problem picking rosehips.
Hawthorn is one of the only other wild ingredients that resemble rosehips, however both are edible and in season. Hawthorn berries are round, whereas rose hips are more oblong – with hawthorn also having a star shape on its end, compared to the rosehip’s tufty itchy hairs.
You can find our guide to foraging hawthorn berries here.
Flavour and How to Use
Rose hips do not taste like roses. They are relatively mildly flavoured, slightly floral and sweet with a distinctly tart aftertaste.
For most recipes, the rose hips will need to be cut in half with a sharp knife to remove the tiny hairs and seeds removed. Alternatively, some recipes may call for straining through a muslin to catch any of those fine itchy hairs!
Keen to give it a go?
Try it in a tea first to get a feel for its flavour – just add a few large leaves in a mug of boiling water, let steep minimum 10 minutes, add honey to sweeten or a slice of lemon.
Using the leaves:
The leaves can be consumed raw or cooked, as a herb or salad leaf. Used to make salves, ointments, or other topical uses (to be used externally).
Using the flowers:
Best used to make teas and tinctures to be taken internally.
Important Things to Note
Be sure not to use rose hips from plants that may have been treated with a pesticide (particularly important if picking cultivated rose hips in a garden, not out in the wild).
Rose hips don’t have any toxic properties, however the itchy hairs and seeds can cause irritation if rose hips are not prepared correctly. Like anything, take care when handling and make sure you try to avoid consuming or touching hairs or seeds as much as you can.
It is said that one should not use any aluminium pans or utensils on the rose hips during this preparation process, as the aluminium tends to destroy the vitamin C.
The Good Stuff
Around the world, the healing properties of rosehips mean it’s a highly sought after addition to the natural medicine cabinet. Rosehips are up there with one of the fruits with the highest amount of vitamin C – almost having 10x more than common fruits like oranges and strawberries!
Rich in nutrients and disease-fighting properties, rose hips have also gained attention for their role in health and beauty, shown to promote skin and eye health, whilst also high in calcium and magnesium.
Note that the nutrient content of rose hips largely depends on soil and growing conditions, processing techniques, and the specific species.
Traditionally rose hips were used after the war to make syrups – packed with nutrients for young mothers and children, as imported citrus fruits were unattainable.
During this time, many headed out too forage for this wild ingredient in Britain’s countryside – a sought after ingredient which made it popular amongst children who loved to not only explore – but also earn a little bit of pocket money on the side.
Going back even further, rosehips were regarded as a lucky token – bringing wealth and fertility to any who may stumble across them, associated with love and protection. By placing a rosehip underneath your pillow, it was said to protect you from night terrors and spirits.. according to ancient folklore!
Our Foraging Tips
Essential if you’re picking on private land. As with everything, respect is key and goes a long way.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Why rush? Nature isn’t going anywhere! Take time to ensure you safely identify your finds.
One step at a time.
No one becomes an expert overnight. Build up your identification skills and your confidence will grow.
Enjoy the process.
Foraging is not only about what you pick but the experience – Immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the little things. The fresh air, birds chirping, a light breeze or the feel of soil beneath your feet
With an abundance of forage at your doorstep, why not start local?
The 10% rule.
Only take what you need (or 10% of what is available). This not only means that you leave plenty for other foragers, but also local wildlife. We want to enjoy our ecosystem not damage it.
Leave room for regrowth.
Never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.
Wash before consumption.
Always give your foraging finds a good wash before consuming, especially when picking on busy routes/path.