Among the many flowers and herbs that grow wild across Canada's subarctic, the wild rose might be my favorite for its pretty appearance and fresh scent. And foraging rosehips for oil, tea, syrup, and jelly in the autumn is a great way to enjoy family time outdoors at summer's end.
In addition, they're a valuable addition to my herbal remedy medicine chest.
Here's a quick overview of why we forage for rosehips, and how.
Why We Forage for Rosehips
One reason we forage rosehips for oil and more is for the opportunity to create natural remedies for our family. Depending on the season, we collect their petals or fruit to use in infusions, cosmetics, homemade goat milk soaps, and wildcrafting. We also forage for medicinal plants and food specific to the north, such as fireweed and Labrador Tea.
Our homeschooling routine includes traditional academic subjects, as well as wilderness living skills and hands-on subjects like gardening and backyard chicken-keeping. And as a family, we're also learning indoor gardening skills, like growing our own black beans to secure our family's food supply.
Benefits of Rosehips in Teas, Syrups, and Infusions
The indigenous people of this area have used rose petals, fresh and dried rosehips, leaves, and even the stems for hundreds of years as a dietary supplement and food.
(Our Free Resource Library includes a Rosehip Recipe eBook - see the bottom of this post). And roses and rosehips have also been traditional staples in East-Indian and middle-Eastern dishes, cosmetics and medicine chests as well.
Rosehips, being the fruit of wild roses, have been found to be chock-full of good vitamins and minerals. They're high in Vitamin C, bioflavonoids (good for your heart, various minerals, and they also have trace iron and vitamin B.
Dried rosehips make a delicate-scented tea to help combat coughs and colds through our long winter.
Rosehip oil, tea, and syrup can be considered a natural remedy that helps with a variety of common health issues including:
- boosting the immune system to fight off colds due to vitamin C
- helps combat anemia (trace iron and vitamin B)
- menstrual cramps (anti-spasmodic properties)
- bladder and kidney infections (antibacterial)
- varicose veins
- poor circulation (cold hands and feet)
- as an anti-obesity and weight reduction aid
- as a preventative treatment for joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis (anti-inflammatory)
Rosehip syrup and dried or fresh rosehips also offer a delicate flavor in cooking and baking.
Tip: Experts suggest avoiding using aluminum or cast-iron cookware or baking ware for rosehips as it strips away the vitamin C!
When to Forage for Rosehips
Although rose petals are best picked in spring and early summer, we harvest rosehips in the autumn. Preferably after a first frost. That's when they'll change color.
If the reships look orangish and hard, they aren't ready. They should be a dark red color, and soft but not mushy. And avoid any with black spots.
Last year we had our first frost (and snow) during the first week in September. We headed out to forage rosehips and cranberries and kept a close eye out for bears.
I also reminded the children to remember not to pick all the rosehips from one bush. Leave at least one bud behind. This helps the pollination required for new rosehips to develop.
Foraging Rosehips for Oil, Tea, Syrup & Jelly in Your Area
Luckily, foraging rosehips for oil and cosmetic, medical or food is pretty easy if you live in North America. In Canada wild roses grow from Quebec west through lower Nunavut, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta (of course, hello "Wild Rose" country), Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, where we live.
If you're in a more urban or suburban, you may have to head out to the country for a day hike to find wild roses you can harvest. Or try urban foresting in your own neighborhood. Whatever you do, avoid picking rosehips in areas where they could have been exposed to pesticides.
How to Dry Rosehips for Tea
If you're foraging rosehips for oil and more, keep some of your rosehips fresh to use in jelly, barbecue sauce, and other recipes. The girls and I are experimenting with new recipes this year, so we've set aside several cups of fresh rosehips. However, the bulk of our harvest gets dried to make tea for the winter.
#1. Air Dry Rosehips for Tea
There are several methods for drying rosehips, but the simplest is to just lay them out in a layer on waxed paper. Let them air dry in a cool, dark, dry spot. Depending on the moisture level and climate in your home, this may take from two weeks to five.
#2. Dry Rosehips in an Oven
Another simple option to harvest rosehips is oven-drying. Simply place the rosehips on parchment-covered trays in the oven at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 3 hours.
We don't do this because we live off the grid and have an ancient propane wall oven. And I like to keep our propane bill down. I may try arranging racks and a cooking thermometer close to our wood stove to dry them that way.
#3. Dry Rosehips With a Food Dehydrator
For the past couple of years we've been dehydrating vegetables, herbs and fruit to help preserve our harvest for the long term. While we have experimented with dehydrating our foraged rosehips, we found that we don't like the flavor. They taste much better fresh!
I might trying freezing them this year. And I'll let you know how I make out.
In all cases, double-check that the rosehips are completely dry before storing them in a mason jar. Otherwise, they'll get moldy and smelly.
Foraging for rosehips and other wild edibles get us outside and helps us become more self-reliant. We're learning new skills as a family, and fostering independence in our kids. Now, we're ready to test out new rosehip recipes - and so can you!
Get Instant Access to Five Free Rosehip Recipes
Get the password for our Free Resource Library with this free downloadable Rosehip Recipes Booklet (in PDF form so you can print it) here when you fill out this form. Recipes include:
- Old Fashioned Rosehip Syrup
- Basic Rosehip Tea
- Rosehip Jelly
- Rosehip Lemon Muffins
- Rosehip Raspberry Vinaigrette