Rosehips are one of autumn and winter’s brightest hedgerow bounty. In the UK, our gardens, school yards and pathways are surrounded in summer by the white, pink and purple flowers of the dog rose, field rose and Japanese rose. I’ve found them on my travels too, notably in Vancouver looking back to the city skyline.
After the flowering season the prickly shrubs produce the colourful fruits we call hips, globules of red and orange hanging off the stems where the flowers once were. Hips are far too tempting to be ignored by a passing forager.
Along wooded pathways to the north east of Islay can be found clumps of wild field roses and I gathered some of their few rosehips last month. Then while visiting a friend’s house this week I saw non-native Japanese rose bushes dripping with hips around their garden. Duly they were picked before the next October storm blew them off.
Older generations still talk about rosehip syrup being spooned out to them as children to stave away winter colds. However, as a kid I distinctly remember being told by my teacher to stay away from the rosehips along the playground perimeter because they were ‘very, very itchy’. I guess this was because of the tiny hairs inside the fruit which are an extreme irritant.
As an adult I guess I am more rebellious – so I pick them by the dozen.
While it might be nice to have a little rosehip elixir to fortify me through lour long island winter, I suspect rosehip syrup may go down all the better with wee drop of The Botanist. I turn to John Wright’s method for making the syrup in his ‘Hedgerow’ handbook and use his recipe:
Take your rosehips (150g) cut into halves, and boil with 250ml of water. It smells like tomatoes and apples (rosehips are of the same family as the apple).
Once to the boil, simmer for about 15 minutes. Then strain the mix through a fine cloth or muslin. Repeat.
The aim of the game here is to make sure that you have strained out the tiny irritant hairs that are inside the rosehips.
Once cooled boil the rosehip water with 150g of sugar or a sugar and honey mix.
Keep in sterilised bottles for several months.