Rose Hips for Winter Fun

Rose Hips for Winter Fun

by Mark Whitelaw

Like its cousin, the apple, a rose produces a fruit we call a "hip" or the ripened ovary. The hip is that portion of the rose in which the seeds of future generations are produced. And like the apple or most any fruit, the hip can be used in several ways by the successful gardener.

Rose hips provide winter color, texture and interest to an otherwise dull winter garden. They provide food for overwintering wildlife. The seeds contained within the hip can be used to propagate new roses. And hips can be blended with other ingredients to make jams, jellies, soups and teas.

The hips come in many different shapes, colors and sizes - from plump and round to long and slender; from bright red-orange to a dark red; from shiny, berry-like to bristly.

Growing rose hips is best done with once-blooming roses. This is because there is no temptation to deadhead blooms for a repeat flush. After the rose has blossomed, the gardener must wait until the hips mature, just as any fruit tree grower must wait for their bounty. With roses, this may take most of the growing season. After fall's first or second crisp frost, the hips will set their color and produce their highest sugar content. At that point, they are ready to pick.

Cleaning the hip for teas and soups is a bit tedious. I recommend they first be trimmed of the pedicel ("bloom stem") and flower on the opposite end using a sharp paring knife. If using the hips for teas or soups, the hip should be split in half, the seeds removed, and the hairy pith scraped out. If using the hips for jams and jellies, this cleaning is not necessary because the resulting pulp from the cooking process is strained away.

Here's a recipe for my Rosehip-Apple-Wine Jam. It's a winner!


  • 3 cups plump, ripe rose hips
  • 3 tart medium red apples
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3 rounded tsp. Fruit-Fresh® or ascorbic acid (3 Tbs. lemon juice may be substituted.)
  • 6½ cups sugar (exactly)
  • 5 drops red food coloring (optional, may be needed if hips are orange in color)
  • 1 package (1¾ oz.) powdered Sure-Jell® or other powdered fruit pectin

Place cleaned and trimmed rose hips, cored and chopped apple (peeling is not necessary), water, wine, and Fruit-Fresh® into a large pot. Boil until apple is soft and the hips begin to split (15-20 min.)

Crush fruit and hips and boil a bit longer. Remove from heat and process in a blender or food processor. Strain away solids. This should yield about 5 cups of juice. If not, add additional wine to make 5 cups.

Return juice to a clean pan, add food coloring (if desired), and bring to a rolling boil. Continue boiling for 5 minutes. Stir in Sure-Jell® and bring back to a full boil (one that cannot be stopped by stirring).

Add sugar and bring back to yet another full boil. Stirring constantly, boil 1 or 2 minutes longer. Remove any foam as necessary.

Ladle into sterilized jars to within ¼ inch of the rim. Cap and band jars immediately, then turn jars upside down for 10 minutes to insure the solids don't settle to the bottom of the jar. Clean the sides of the jars when cool to the touch. Label and date. Yield: about 3½ pints.

One last note: If you must spray your roses and you plan to use their hips in cooking, those spray products must be approved for food crops. Always read and follow label directions explicity before harvesting your crop.

About the Author Mark Whitelaw was a landscape designer and dedicated rosarian. He was a Past President and an executive board member of the Ft. Worth Rose Society, as well as an American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian and ARS Cyber-CR, who laughingly referred to the rose as "his mistress.".In everything he did, he sought to educate people about the plant he loved so much. As editor for Rose Garden at he continued to educate people about his favorite flower - and continues to do so in the many informative articles he left as his legacy.

About this Author