Rose hips are the fruit and seed structure of the rose plant.  They are a bit like little orange or red apples or crabapples, and this is not surprising considering that roses are in the same plant family as apples, the Rosaceae.  They aren’t seen that much in rose gardens because the flowers are often pruned off once they fade to stimulate more flowering and make the bush more attractive.  If allowed to form, the hips, sometimes called rose haws or rose heps, can provide interest and color in the late summer garden too.

Rose hips.  J. Allen photo.

Rose hips. J. Allen photo.

Rose hips are edible and are high in vitamin C.  They are used for a variety of culinary purposes including jams, jelly, syrup, tea, wine, pie and more.   According to the WebMD website, the vitamin C in rose hips breaks down when they are dried or processed, so consuming them fresh is the best way to maximize vitamin C intake.  This website has a lot of great info on traditional and contemporary uses for rose hips as long as cautions that are worth checking out if you’re considering rose hips for either cooking or as a supplement.  You can find out what health benefits have been well documented and which are still not proven.

For best flavor, it’s recommended to harvest rose hips after the first frost, but they can be harvested earlier too.  They have a tart flavor and birds may eat them before you get a chance if you wait to long.  The seeds can be used to propagate new rose plants but most require a chilling period (stratification) before they will germinate.

J. Allen