Walk a few blocks through any Cleveland neighborhood and you will likely find roses growing in someone’s front yard or to the side of their house, trellised or wild. We love roses for their scent and looks, but there is another reason to love roses: their taste.
Rose petals are edible but it’s the fruit, called rose hips, which are versatile and have a distinct, good flavor. Rose hips form in autumn and can cling to the plant through the winter. They are red or orange and can range in size from about the size of a pea to about the size of quarter. Rose hip flesh varies in thickness by species and its fresh flavor is similar to tart plums. And while the flesh is delicious, underneath it are seeds that can irritate your throat, and possibly your digestive tract, so it’s best to cut out the seeds and the fibers around them, or strain them out so you can enjoy the flavor of rose hips in jellies, jams, teas, cordials or syrups.
Harvest hips from your backyard, neighbors’ gardens (with permission) or from abandoned areas. Collect hips when the flesh is slightly soft to the touch. For the following jelly recipe, I used Virginia rose hips, courtesy of the Herb Volunteers at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. You can use hips from any variety of rose you find, but some taste better than others.