Rosehip Jam

Rosa rugosa, or Japanese rose, is a glorious plant. Not only are its heavily scented petals among the best types of rose for culinary use, but in late summer it produces a mass of luscious, flame-red rosehips. They make a perfect — although time consuming — ingredient for jams and syrups


Rosehip jam has a wonderful yet unusual flavour
Rosehip jam has a wonderful yet unusual flavour

No other fruit tastes quite like the rosehip. It has a unique, citrusy but full-bodied flavour, without the acidic sharpness of citrus fruit. It makes them, along with the blackberry, one of the worthiest and most desirable of common hedgerow finds. Rosehips are a member of the Rosaceae family, among the most treasured of culinary plants, with botanical relatives including apples, strawberries, raspberries, plums, cherries and almonds.


The ripe hips of Rosa rugosa
The ripe hips of Rosa rugosa

One well-recorded benefit of the rosehip is its rich vitamin C content, which is around 426 mg per 100 g (US Department of Agriculture, national nutrient database). Some of the vitamin C is degraded by boiling but a significant percentage (up to 85%) leeches into the water and so is preserved when making jams and syrups (Turkish Journal of Botany, 1997). They are such a readily available source of the vitamin that, during WWII, British children were paid 3d per lb to collect them, to support public health during rationing. An approved recipe for “national rosehip syrup” was in circulation and was considered as a substitute for unavailable fruit juices (foodsofengland.co.uk). Keeping some rosehip preserve on your shelf is certainly a good investment for topping up your vitamin C as autumn and winter approach.

Rosa rugosa hips ready for preparing
Rosa rugosa hips ready for preparing

The one downside of cooking with rosehips is the extended preparation. Each hip contains hundreds of seeds surrounded by fine, irritating hairs. Many a schoolchild could tell you that ripe Rosa rugosa hips make good “itching powder” when squashed and dropped down someone’s back. Obviously, you don’t want these hairs getting in your throat, so either manual removal of the seeds and hairs, followed by a thorough rinsing, or repeated straining through muslin are required to produce an edible preserve.