Late summer is probably the most abundant time in the forager’s calendar so I’m starting a series of Friday postings on wild foods you can gather. This morning I went out for Saffron Milk Caps but had no success. The rosehips, however, were crying out to be picked so here goes:
Rosehips were considered such a good source of vitamin C that, during the lean war years, school children were sent out to pick them. Preparing them takes a little bit of effort as the microscopic hairs that the same school children would use as “itching powder” need to be extracted from the fruit bodies. However, the effort is well worthwhile for rosehip wine, rosehip jelly or rosehip syrup that can be drunk as a cordial or poured on ice cream.
Where to find them: In the UK the wild rose or “Dog Rose” populates hedgerows but tends to be rarer on the coast. It is a fast growing and very hardy plant and in my experience it is often found on hard or waste ground where less competitive species can’t establish so well. Varieties of garden escapees make it in the wild, too.
Picking: Go for the reddest fruits and avoid discoloured, mottled brown or green ones that have probably been invaded by parasites or have not matured. The fruits pop off the stem quite easily at the base and can even be picked late into November after the frosts when they are starting to go slightly wrinkly provided there are no critters in residence.
Preparation: I never have the patience to brew things so I make a simple syrup/cordial that can also be turned into a jelly if desired.
- Pick through the fruits, top and tail them and discard any that are too infested.
- You’ll need a bit of muslin and a couple of saucepans (I use a linen tea towel but if you do, then don’t expect it to ever be the same, it will get stained).
- Slice the hips up fine or pulp them in a food processor.
- Add a pound of hips to about 4 pints of boiling water and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Strain the pulp through the cloth and keep the liquid. Bring another pint of water to the boil and simmer the pulp a second time for 10 minutes or so.
- Strain again and repeat one more time.
- Compost the pulp (yeah!) and put the liquid on to boil and reduce, adding about a pound of sugar.
- Keep reducing until you have the desired viscosity – i.e. thick and gloopy for a syrup and more runny for a cordial.
- Bottle off in sterilised bottles. I don’t know how long it keeps for, it never lasts very long in our house …
Go get em.
My Other Foraging Posts: