Rose hips are the cherry-sized red fruits of the rose bush left behind after the bloom has died. Although nearly all rose bushes produce rose hips, the tastiest for eating purposes come from the Rosa rugosa variety. The flavor is described as fruity and spicy, much like the cranberry. Harvest the fruits after the first frost when they become fully-colored, but not overripe. They should yield to gentle pressure but not be soft or wrinkly. Most recipes advise removing the irritating hairy seeds before processing the fruit. When cooking with rose hips, do not use any metal pans or utensils other than stainless steel or risk discoloration of the fruit and loss of its precious vitamin C stores.
If the petals have fallen from your roses, leaving behind small, red hips that look like tiny apples, don't let the hips go to waste. Rose hips aren't difficult to preserve by drying and they are full of vitamin C. The dried hips can be used to make sweet, tangy tea, jam, jelly, syrup and wine. Although not all newer rose bushes have hips, old-fashioned rosa rugosa roses and wild roses will have hips in abundance.
Just after a frost is the best time to gather rose hips. Snap off the tails as you pick,or later when you reach home. Spread the hips out on a clean surface and allow to dry partially. When the skins begin to feel dried and shriveled, split the hips and take out the large seeds -- all of them. If you let the hips dry too much, it will be difficult to remove the seeds. If not dry enough, the inside pulp will be sticky and cling to the seeds. After the seeds are removed, allow the hips to dry completely before storing or they will not keep well. Store in small, sealed plastic bags. These will keep indefinitely in the freezer or for several months in the refrigerator. They are packed with vitamin C and are good to munch on anytime you need extra energy...or a moderately sweet nutlike "candy."