Rose hips are the fruits of the Rosa canina wild rose, which is a member of the Rosaceae family, along with cherry, apricot, almond, and more.
It is sweet and rich in vitamin C, which is why many home gardeners turn them into jellies, sauces, teas, and more.
If you have tried growing them, too, you might be wondering when is the best time to harvest rose hips.
When to harvest rose hips? The best time to pick rose hips is when the first mild frost nicks the leaves but before a hard frost. They must remain firm and brightly colored. Depending on your region, they ripen around the summer and early fall.
How Do You Know When Your Rose Hips Are Ready to Harvest?
Rose hips were grown mainly in Europe and some regions of Africa and Asia.
Germinating the seeds can take months. From there, you might have to wait years until the rose shrubs become established enough to produce flowers.
That said, not all will produce these old-fashioned rose fruits, especially the modern varieties of rose plants.
Right after the shrub blooms is when you can expect it to produce rose hips, which house the plant’s seeds.
They are very firm red or orange fruits, roughly around the size of a grape, and can be oblong or round.
Check the date.
Rose hips need at least 12 to 16 weeks to become fully ripe for eating. Often, harvest time is in the fall, just after the first frost.
As cold-loving fruits, their exposure to mild frost will make them even sweeter.
Look at the size and color.
As they mature, rose hips will typically undergo color changes until they become a rich shade of red.
They will start out as bright orange fruits, turn pink, and finally, a darker crimson or red-orange color. Other rose hip varieties can even turn black or purple.
Test for firmness.
Hold the fruit in your hand and gently press your thumb on it.
You’ll know rose hips are ready for harvest when they are totally ripe but still hard. There might be a slight softness to them, but they should remain rather firm.
Do not harvest hips that are squishy or harmed. Also, avoid picking those from shrubs exposed to insecticides or toxins throughout the growing season.
Check the season.
Waiting for rose hips to grow takes time, but their sweet flavor makes them worth all the effort and the wait.
Expect the blooms to be pollinated in the spring and early summer and the hips to grow and ripen around late summer to early fall.
The fruits will often develop after the petals have opened and started to fall off. Unlike rose blooms, they won’t flourish through the spring and summer seasons.
Rose hips are known to be sweeter when harvested shortly after the first frost. Make sure the cold does not freeze the hips, though!
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Rose Hips?
Eating rose perfectly ripe rose hips are believed to help improve blood pressure, relieve osteoarthritis pain, lower cholesterol, and reduce aging symptoms.
What happens if you leave them on the shrub longer?
Unfortunately, these tiny red-colored fruits will start losing their nutritional value when left to ripen way past maturity.
They will look withered and dried after some time, something that isn’t exactly appealing to eat.
Around the same time rose hips ripen, badgers and other small animals emerge from hibernation. So, they are also drawn to patches of wild roses to eat these fruits.
If you somehow fail to harvest rose hips and leave them on the shrub, there’s a good chance that birds will discover them and eat the seeds.
How To Harvest Rose Hips?
Rose hips are well-known for having high concentrations of natural beneficial nutrients like vitamins C, E, B, and F.
To enjoy these benefits, you will want to harvest them on time. Here are the steps to harvesting rose hips properly:
Step 1: Harvest mature hips.
Before anything else, it would be best to prepare your gardening gear and tools first. For instance, wearing a pair of gloves will help keep you safe from the rose shrubs’ thorns.
You will also want to check whether they are ready for picking. Again, the fruits must be firm and red or orange in color.
More often than not, you can pluck off fully mature hips from the rose stem (just above the top of the hip). If that’s not possible, use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.
Leave the dried or shriveled hips on the bushes for birds to eat; they won’t be as tasty and might be too soggy to even pluck.
Step 2: Prepare them for eating.
Using your garden shears, trim off the hip’s blossom end and stem. Then, slice the fruit in half with a knife.
A pair of kitchen shears can also be used if the fruits are too small to slice with a knife safely.
Step 3: Take the seeds out.
The seeds have an irritating and hairy covering, so it would be best to remove them before eating.
Depending on what you’re comfortable with, you can use a butter knife, coffee spoon, or any convenient spoon to remove the seeds.
That said, you won’t need to take the seeds out if you will be using the hips for making jelly.
Should You Wash Rose Hips After Harvesting?
If you are planning on putting them to good use right after harvest, remember to wash them first.
You can do this by putting them in a bowl of clean water and draining the water out using a strainer.
These fruits don’t need time to ripen after picking, which means you can eat or cook them immediately after washing them.
That said, some prefer drying or freezing them for later use.
Drying Rose Hips
Learning how to dry rose hips will effectively extend their storage life, often lasting well over a year. Of the several approaches to this, oven drying is the quickest and easiest.
To do this, start by laying them out on a baking sheet. Set the oven at the lowest heat setting possible and bake them for several hours.
If you don’t have an oven available, you can also use a dehydrator set at 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The goal is to bake them until they are brittle and scorched.
Another way to dry rose hips is by air drying, but this will only work if you live in an area with warm weather.
Again, lay them out on a platter or fine herbs drying sieve to dry. This process would take several weeks to complete.
When you’re ready to eat them, you’ll find it easy to rehydrate dried rose hips.
However, it’s worth noting that processing and drying the fruit may result in reduced amounts of its vitamins and minerals.
Can You Eat Rose Hips Immediately After Harvesting?
There are plenty of ways to use rose hips and add them to your diet. You can turn them into seasoning, soups, jellies, and sauces.
In fact, some believe that finding new ways to use them is what makes them an exciting crop to harvest!
The tastiest fruits will come from rose shrubs that haven’t been sprayed with harmful pesticides.
You might also want to focus on harvesting the bigger ones because it’s easier to slice, wash, and process them.
Preparing Rose Hips for Jams, Jellies, Sauces, and More
Make sure you don’t use copper or aluminum cookware for this. Aluminum will dull the vivid color of the hips, while the fruit’s vitamin C content may damage the copper.
For jellies and jams, simply boil and simmer rose hips to get the juice out. Strain the fluid and use it in your recipe. You can also transfer it to a jar and keep it in the fridge for a year.
To make pulp, make sure you remove all the seeds and hairs from each rose hip first. Then, cook the pulp over low to medium heat until it softens and all the water has evaporated.
After that, process the cooked pulp by running it through a spice grinder to make sauces, jam, fruit leather, and liqueurs.
Do not eat or drink rosehip if you have thalassemia, sickle cell disease, glucose problems, and anemia.
If you do, you may experience headaches, heartburn, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, and fatigue. If you notice any of these after eating rose hip, call your primary care doctor immediately.
Because they take a long time to become fully established, growing roses for their hips is not for everyone.
You will need to practice extreme patience and have the dedication to see the whole growing process through.
In the end, you’ll find that everything will be worth it. Not only does the fruits’ vitamin C content boost the body’s immune system but may also help provide arthritis relief.
More importantly, you won’t run out of ideas to enjoy rose hips—from eating them as is or processing them into jams, sauces, and more!