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Friday, October 19, 2012

Rose Hip Syrup

I've been taking care of my great grandmother's and my grandmother's roses for years. I retired from caring for my grandma's roses when she sold her house. I still care for the roses that are left from my great grandmother as we've lived in her house for almost 30 years. I was taught to dead head roses right away. By doing this, you keep the roses' energy directed at blooming at not at completing the reproductive cycle. If I ever saw a rose hip developing, I thought, "Dang! I missed one." Not, "Yay! Rose hip syrup!" When I discovered a cache of rose hips in a parking lot I knew it was my big chance.

I keep my eyes open for foraging opportunities as I wander through my life. Turns out that there is a rose hedge, next to my Trader Joe's, that has been pretty much abandoned. For a forager, this is a good thing. I know it hasn't been sprayed or fertilized for some time. There was once an Italian food market on the other side of the rose hedge from TJ's, but now there is a pet supply store and they don't have any interest in the roses. The rose hips on these bushes are large and orangey yellow. You may see wild roses with little red hips. I've read that these are very good for syrup too.

My friend, Miss Pauline, who is a gardening genius, told me that rose hips are sweeter after a frost. I'd be awaiting a frost for long months in this climate. There are some winters where we don't have a frost at our elevation at all. I have now made two batches of rose hip syrup, from these same bushes. The first batch was made when the hips were larger and juicier. For the second batch, the hips were dryer and some had been a bit sunburned. My perception is that the first batch has less bitterness than the second. It may be that in cold climates, the rose hips would freeze while still moist. With our unseasonable heat, they've just been drying up. If these hips are available next year, I'll try to work with them in September, when they are still plump.

As I researched recipes for rose hip syrup, I found many war time references. Check out this article that explains how rose hip syrup was used to prevent scurvy in the UK during WW II. Rose hips are very high in vitamin C. Because of the vitamin C content, I thought they would be very sour. I was thinking of a flavor something like hibiscus, but this rose hip syrup is nothing like that. I smells and tastes like apples, almonds and rose petals all in one. The flavor has a subtle bitterness that I balanced out with lemon juice. The lemon juice also brought up the acidity to a safe level for water bath canning. Some recipes for this type of syrup are thick with sugar. I didn't intend to end up with a syrup suitable for pancakes or a dessert topping. I wanted a syrup more analogous to fruit juice for flavoring soda water. I really like this flavor and it's like no soda I've ever had before. It is a great way to get a good dose of vitamin C in a tasty, sparkling form.

Rose Hip Syrup
2 pounds ripe rose hips
3 quarts water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Wash the rose hips and remove any extra stems or flower parts. Place in a large pot and add the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender - about 90 minutes. Mash the hips with a potato masher and simmer about 10 minutes more.

Place a colander over a smaller sauce pot and line the colander with at least 6 layers of cheese cloth. Pour the rose hip mash into the colander and let drain. If you want a clear liquid, as for jelly, let it drain slowly with no pressure. I squeezed every last bit of liquid out of mine! You can prepare everything up to this step, add the lemon juice and refrigerate until ready to bottle.

When ready to bottle, prepare 6 half-pint jars and lids and the boiling water bath. Bring the liquid to a boil and stir in the sugar. Simmer while waiting for the BWB come to a boil. It will reduce slightly. Carefully ladle the syrup into hot, sterilized jars. Wipe rims and top with lids and rings and close to a finger tightness. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove and allow to cool.

Makes 5 to 6 half pints.

For a refreshing soda, add 3 tbsp. syrup to a pint of sparkling water and ice.


  1. I just put rosehips in the freezer for a while before using them. There are lots of wild rosehips here at the moment. It's strange some are hard and some super squishy. My parents remember collecting bags and bags of rosehips in the UK during WWII.

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comment. Freezing them for a bit is a great idea. I'm excited to look through your blog even though we are on different continents and will have different local plants. This beautiful world provides for us in so many ways!

    2. Oh my gosh! I LOVE your site! Also - so far, we have everything in CA that you are working with there. Thank you so much for commenting so I can enjoy all that you share. I'm now a follower on Pinterest too!

  2. I was just teaching my 8 year old neighbor about rose hips and were talking about making rose hip jelly, he might like this better!

    1. I bet she will. The soda I've been drinking is pretty darn yummy. Not too sweet either. Good luck! What a fun project to share.