There are many many types of roses, both wild and cultivated – but the good news is that they all are edible!
Despite there being 300+ varieties, all roses have curved thorns and alternate, pinnate leaves with 3-9 oval-shaped leaflet; the flowers are symmetrical and are typically pink or white.
You’ll find the wild rose (also known as a dog rose) in older hedgerows, with their delicately pink five petals blooming throughout the summer. They are a climbing rose, often found clambering through the bushes or trees.
Once the petals have fallen at the end of summer, a bright red berry appears – this is the rose hip – traditionally the most utilised part of the plant.
Wild rose hips are a red/dark orange colour, oblong in shape and around 2cm long and with small wispy hairs protruding from the bottom of one end. They have a fleshy but firm outer layer, called the hypanthium, and between 5 and 160 seeds within, embedded in a matrix of stiff, fine hairs.
It’s worth noting that in comparison, cultivated roses are generally more showy, with larger, more bulbous hips.
Rose hips can be gathered from the end of September throughout the Autumn/early Winter, sometimes until early December (unless the birds and squirrels haven’t gotten there first!).
You’ll commonly find them in hedgerows and on the edges of woodlands, growing in sunny or light shade and thriving in well-drained, slightly acid soil.
Traditionally, rumour has it you have to wait until the first frost to pick them – as the frost breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, so you’ll get more juicy liquid when you cook them. However, if you wait until the first frost these days – there may not be any left, so you’re better off picking them and freezing them prior to using, which has the same effect. You’ll need to pick them when they are plump and very slightly soft to the touch – they will need a little twist to come away from the stalk.
You can eat the rose petals, the hips and the leaves. However, depending on how you use them, rose hips may need to be processed before using – as inside you’ll find they are packed with tiny, rather hairy seeds that are incredibly irritating on the skin (often used by young children as itching powder!).
Removing the seeds from rose hips takes up a lot of time, so keep in mind that if you are making something like a syrup or jam, where you are going to strain the rose hips anyway, you needn’t waste your time removing the seeds. To deseed, use a sharp knife to cut each rose hip in half, carefully dig out the seeds and itchy hairs that are inside with a small spoon or a round-tipped knife.
There are a number of ways to use rose hips in recipes whole, you just need to remember to pass them through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth, to ensure there’s no irritation to your throat and stomach.
In terms of flavour, rose hips do not taste like roses. Wild roses have a fruity, sweet yet tangy flavour – with a touch of warm toffee. Note that rose hips do vary in flavour, for example Japanese roses tend to be much lighter and tangier.
Rose hips can be used fresh, kept frozen or dried in a dehydrator or low oven.
The most common thing to do with rose hips, is make a syrup – brilliant due to its incredible vitamin C content. A syrup can be used as a simple cordial, in cocktails, poured over puddings or breakfasts, or used to make a delicious sorbet.
Other ideas include:
If you haven’t got the inclination to make your own, our friends at Buck and Birch made a delectable Rosehip Rum, which we’d highly recommend for a wild tipple!
Rose hips are one of the highest plant sources of vitamin C – in fact, 50% more than oranges! Vitamin C helps to prevent and fight infection, colds, flu, and pneumonia. They’re also packed with minerals and antioxidants, can help settle an upset stomach or ease joint pain – so they’re quite the superfood!
28 grams of this super fruit contains around 119mg of vitamin C. Drizzle rose hip syrup into a hot toddy the next time you’re combating a cold for a virus-beating pick-me-up and your immune system will thank you!
You’ll often find rose as an ingredient in skincare products due to its high Vitamin A content – shown to encourage the synthesis of collagen, reduce and prevent fine lines, scars and wrinkles.
To make the most of their medicinal properties, it’s best to use the rose hips when fresh. Note that dehydrating them does heavily reduce their vitamin content.
During the war, there was a shortage of citrus fruit in the UK – so children were sent out to pick rose hips to make a syrup to provide extra nutrition. In fact, many were even paid to forage – with rose hips taken to pharmacies and weighed in for a cash reward.
During the 18th century, rose hips were also used to prevent scurvy amongst sailors. Large containers were stored on ships as supplements for the crew!
If picking from cultivated rose bushes, be sure not to use roses that may have been treated with pesticides.
When processing rose hips, try not to use an aluminium pans or utensils, as this can discolour the hips and breaks down the vitamin C.
When picking – remember not to pick all the rose hips from one bush – leave at least one bud behind. This helps the pollination required for new rose hips to develop.
Many of our Cookery Courses include a short foraging walk as part of the day, introducing you to a handful of commonly found wild ingredients.
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.