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How to forage, dry and use rose hips for tea. Tips on picking rose hips, three ways to dry them, and instructions on how to brew them into pot of tea.
It’s that time of year again and the hedgerows are heaving with fruit. With most people intent on collecting juicy blackberries, the bright red but rock hard rose hip is often overlooked. Rose hips are the fruit of the rose bush and in the summer are found as a swollen green part of the stem just underneath the flower. In autumn they swell into a beautiful red ‘hip’ that look stunning on the bush. They’re also delicious dried and made into vitamin c rich tea.
Every rose left uncut will eventually produce a hip but some will appear in the summer and others later in the autumn depending on species. To my knowledge, all rose hips are edible, though some varieties have better flavour than others.
Rose-hip tea is rich in natural Vitamin C
Blessed with a delicate fruity taste and rich in vitamins A, B and C, Rose-hips can be used to make all kinds of things. Jellies, syrups, teas, wine and even cosmetics. Both the fruit and the seeds are edible but you shouldn’t eat rose hips whole because they have irritating hairs inside. Don’t worry though, you can filter them out either before or after the drying process.
The best hips for eating are the ones produced by the common wild rose, also known as the Dog Rose (Rosa canina). They’re firm, deep red hips that are rich in flavour and easy to find and harvest. They’re ready in autumn but it’s said the best time to harvest them is directly after a frost. Try to pick ones that are firm and vibrantly coloured. If you find any that are going soft or that have dark spots on them, pass them by.
You can dry smaller hips whole but the larger ones have a lot of hairs inside. The Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) is another common rose that produces edible and gigantic hips. Literally four or five times the size of a dog rosehip. You can often find them growing in municipal plantings here on the Isle of Man. I like to err on the cautious side and try to remove as much from inside these hips as possible before drying them.
Drying Rose-hips for Tea
Rinse the hips in water and allow them to dry. Next, if you’re using Rosa Rugosa hips, cut them open and remove as many of the seeds as possible. If you’ve picked the smaller Rosa Canina (Dog Rose) hips, then just snip the top and bottom of the hip off and leave it fairly intact. They’re much smaller so will dry easier than the larger Rugosas.
Place the hips in the oven at low heat for about three and a half hours until they’re bone dry. You’ll need to prop open the oven door with a tea towel (or similar) just a crack so that moisture can escape from inside. Or see below for food dehydrator drying.
Allow the hips to cool completely then place them in a paper bag to dry out for another week or so. When you’re sure that the pieces are bone-dry, run them through a food processor until they’re roughly chopped. Pour it all into a sieve and shake the ‘itching powder’ out and onto newspaper or into a bag. You’ll be amazed at how easy they filter through the mesh.
Store your tea in an air-tight container in a dark and cool place. The tea is best used within a year but can last longer depending on storage methods.
Food Dehydrator Method
Drying rose hips in a food dehydrator is far easier and uses less energy than an oven. Pick your rose-hips, rinse them with cool water, and allow them to dry. Prepare as described in step one above and then place them in a thin layer on the racks of your food dehydrator. Allow your dehydrator to dry them until they are bone-dry. Cool and store as described above.
Air drying Rose Hips
There are two ways of air-drying rose hips. If the weather is warm and dry you can first clean the hips and spread them on waxed paper or screens. The sun can dry smaller hips or pieces of hips in as little as a day. If they’re not completely dry, take the hips inside overnight and put them out again the next day. If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel you can dry them inside and leave them in overnight.
You can also dry rose hips inside. It can take around a month but it’s a good option if you’re pinched for outdoor space or the weather isn’t great. Clean and spread them on screens or wax paper-lined trays and set them someplace dry and well ventilated. When they’re completely dry you can store them in jars.
Making Rose Hip Tea
Measure out 1 teaspoon of dried rose hips for each cup of tea you’re going to make. Pour scalding water over the hips and leave to infuse for about five minutes. Remove the tea leaf holder from your teapot and discard the contents. Yes, you can compost the wet hips. Serve the tea immediately and add a little honey or stevia to sweeten it.