Rosehip syrup is a wartime favourite that still packs a Vit C punch

Rosehip syrup
Rosehip syrup packs a punch with Vitamins C, A and D and helped keep wartime children healthy

ROSEHIP syrup is a recipe with an interesting history and tastes good over all sorts of foods, including icecream and pancakes!

The great advantage of rosehip syrup is that while the process of making it is a little bit finicky the tiny red hips of the wild rose are readily available for free on hedgerows and in many gardens throughout the country.

These tiny red fruits look a little bit like elongated apples, which is no coincidence as they belong to the same family as crab apples and apples.

However, rosehips pack a real punch when it comes to their health-giving credentials, containing Vitamins A and D but also 50% more Vitamin C than oranges! And one of the best ways to get your rosehip Vit C hit is through a homemade syrup.

Wartime use for rosehip syrup

We came across this recipe about four years ago in the handy pocket-sized Collins Food for Free book, giving the recommended measurements and cooking methods provided by Britain’s Ministry of Food during the Second World War.

During rationing and food shortages the British government was keen to provide families with a means to ensure young children and infants were receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin C when oranges were scarce because imports were so badly affected by enemy attacks.

So the government sent out school teachers, scouts, guides and other groups to pick 200 tons of hips, which were then used to make 600,000 bottles of syrup.

Our 21st century rosehip syrup

Our own 2lbs of hips resulted in four small bottles and three larger beer bottles (donated, those ones that you can handily click shut) of syrup, which will last unopened up to a year, but must be consumed within a week once we pop the cork.

The best time to pick hips is from late September through to November. You’ll know they’re ready once they’ve reached that lovely glossy red stage. I’ve read that you should wait until after the first frost, but we don’t.

We have several dog rose plants growing in our garden so we got most of our hips from those, supplemented by plants growing in adjacent ditches.

Rosehip thorns
Mind those thorns – they’re tricky!

Wild roses are extremely thorny – it’s a natural defence to keep predators away from their fruit – so it really is advisable to wear protective gloves. Now, I’d like to say that I practice what I preach, but I don’t, and I bear the scratches to prove it!

And if, like me, you’re being helped by small girls with long hair, you may, like me, at some point have to detangle your child from thorns.


Rosehip Syrup Recipe


2lbs of rose hips (washed – no need to take off the tails)

3 pints boiling water (to begin)

1¾ lbs granulated sugar

Juice of 1 lemon (optional)


Boil the water in a large stainless steel pot while putting the hips through a mincer or food processor. Add the hips to the water and bring back to the boil.

Take off the heat for 15 minutes before putting in a jelly bag or muslin to drip (for at least 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in the cleaned pot boil another 1½ pints of water.

Pop the pulp back into the pot and boil again for another 5 minutes, before putting pulp back into scalded bag/muslin to drip again (just scald by pouring boiling water over it).  

Rosehip syrup
Our rosehip syrup

Pour all the liquid from both dripping sessions into the re-cleaned pot and bring back to the boil until the liquid has reduced by about half (be patient, as it can take a while). Then add your sugar, and lemon juice if you’re using it (we like that extra kick), stirring while the sugar melts.

Boil for another five minutes before pouring into sterilised bottles (washed bottles can be placed in an oven at around 120-140 degrees for about 30 minutes). As with most homemade cordials, syrups etc, store in a cool, dark place and once opened keep in the fridge.

Ways to use your rosehip syrup

Rosehip syrup has all kinds of uses and can be put in porridge or muesli instead of honey or sugar. It can also be poured over puddings or icecream.

If you want to make the most of the syrup’s health benefits then mix some with lemon, a locally-produced honey (optional) and hot water.

We also use the lemon/honey/water concoction with our homemade blackcurrant cordial as well as our flu-busting elderberry syrup.

We only made our batch of rosehip syrup this week – very tasty, lemon makes a nice addition, but I’ve found a recipe for iced gems that we’re definitely going to try this weekend.

Our girls, Ava (11) and Becca (8), have also discovered that all our cordials and syrups taste lovely as slushies – just pop your mix into a plastic cup and then put it into the freezer until it reaches the right consistency. They’re getting their slushy fix, with vitamins rather than dubious additives, and I’m not lecturing their Dad about buying them impossibly blue drinks in town!

If you’re interested in having a go at other recipes that we use at home then visit our blog and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter by clicking here.


4 thoughts on “Rosehip syrup is a wartime favourite that still packs a Vit C punch”

  1. Hi, we’re trying to make rose hip syrup this year having made some fabulous elderberry. Can I leave out the sugar and just add raw honey to the cooled liquid at the end?

    Many thanks


    1. I’ve yet to use honey as a substitute for sugar but it’s not unusual. The measurements I’ve come across are 450g honey to 850ml liquid, added at the end of the process. Let me know how you get on!

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