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Rose hips add color to the fall and winter garden. Photo: Morn the Gom, Wikimedia Commons

Rose berries, called rose hips or just hips, are very attractive in the fall. Most turn bright red, although some are purple, and generally they persist through a good part of the winter. And when the fruits do disappear, it’s usually because birds have discovered them. So, if you don’t remove them (the unfortunate mania of excessive gardeners is to remove all faded flowers and therefore they never see the beautiful fruits that follow!), you’ll have a “two for the price of one”: beautiful fall/winter fruits and an invitation to birds to visit your winter garden.


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Rose hip jam. Photo: Jan Temmel, Flickr

In fact, make that  a “three for the price of one”: rose hips are edible and indeed very rich in vitamin C (20 times higher than citrus!) as well as vitamin B, carotene (provitamin A) and minerals. Since they are usually acidic and rather astringent, they are rarely eaten fresh, but rather cooked with sugar. Wait until the fruit softens before harvesting, usually after one or two hard frosts. They can then be made into syrups, jellies, marmalades, ketchups and even soups (rose-hip soup is a traditional recipe in Sweden).

An Unpleasant Side Effect

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The French don’t call rose hips “butt scratchers” for nothing! Photo: alternatifterapi.com

It’s important, however, to remove the seeds before consuming the fruits. In most species, including the popular rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa), the seeds are covered in irritating hairs that can cause unpleasant reactions to the skin and mucous membranes. And the irritation is carried right through the digestive tract. As a result, the French call rose hips “gratte-culs” (butt scratchers), while Amerindian tribes described the result as “itchy bottom disease.” I figure you get the picture!

The fine hairs can even be ground up and used as itching powder, popularly used as a practical joke … although you can be pretty sure the butt of the joke (couldn’t resistant that one!) won’t be laughing!

So, remove the seeds before you cook up that fantastic family rose hip recipe you just discovered in great-grandma’s cookbook … and the whole family will be grateful!20171011A Morn the Gom, WC

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

3 comments on “Rose Hips: Think Before You Eat!

  1. I think I’ll leave them right where they are on the bush and take a Vitamin C. 🙂

  2. Markus Mueller

    I love rose hips! I actually just did a post on my blog Earth, Food, and Fire a few weeks ago about using rose hips to make tea! A good way to get around the itchy bum problem and still get the health benefits!

    I have found drying them is the easiest way to store them for tea, after steeping, simple strain out all the pulp!

  3. I see them as a perennial flower, that could be a sources of vitamins, should food shortages
    became a reality in the future.

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