I think one of the first tastes I vividly remember is the taste of National Health Service orange juice which was distributed to children after World War 11, the inception of the NHS and a concern that the rigours of post war rationing would undermine the health of the nations children. It was sweet but sharp, made you pucker and smelled radiantly of the most perfumed concentrated orange. Just divine – to be looked forward to and especially if you could get away with having an undiluted spoonful rather than a glass of water with a spoonful stirred through. Of course, not quite so divine was another weekly taste of that time – cod liver oil, a spoonful of which was forced upon children by conscientious parents in the name of health.
But I was the lucky generation who got the orange syrup or the ‘other syrup’. Prior to that the valuable Vitamin C had been, for the duration of the war, obtained from the collection and processing of a locally grown source – from Rosehips to be exact. In fact, rosehips contained more Vitamin C than oranges did. Peter Frost of the Morning Star tells us that by 1943, 500 tons of it were collected each year, enough to make 2.5 million bottles of syrup and save the importation of 25 million oranges. Children were paid 3d (about 35p today) per lb of rose hips harvested in the autumn. For many years after the war Delrosa Rosehip Syrup, manufactured by the inventors of Andrew Liver Salts, firm Scott and Turner, was supplied, along with national health orange juice, for babies, through baby clinics throughout Britain. I remember foraging for rosehips and taking them to school where they were weighed and paid for.
The Hip, the fruit of the rose, is edible in all roses. Britain’s native wild roses have been open to discussion by botanists for years, say EatWeeds, because of the wide variations between different species and hybrids. However, most agree on five distinct species: dog rose (Rosa canina), field rose (Rosa arvensis), sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa), burnet rose (Rosa spinosissima), and downy rose (Rosa villosa). Common in the UK too is the Japanese Rose (rosa rugosa), which produces larger, fatter hips, but it is the Wild Dog Rose or Rosa canina from which the best tasting hips come.
So, how do you use rose hips? Fortunately there is lots of advice out there to guide you.
The Eat Weeds blog has the best step-by-step instructions on drying your rose-hips. The process is relatively simple, and less time consuming if you can use a dehydrator.
- Gather your rose-hips, probably in late autumn, just after the first frost.
- Wash them, towel dry them, dehydrate them. You can if you want cut them in half for the dehydrating, but this is not necessary, although it may reduce the drying time (5-6 hours)
- Once dry, grind to a course texture then sieve to get rid of the fine hairs (which, if not removed WILL make you cough).
- Bottle and use.
Once you have your dried rose-hips they can be used to make great jellies, sauces, syrups, soups and seasoning, and even fruit leather. To get a sense of the taste of rose hips, perhaps start out by brewing yourself a cup of rose hip tea. Simple Looseleaf Tea Company gives a good recipe to do this:
Easy Rosehip Tea Recipe
You can use both fresh or dried rose hips for making a rose hip tea tea. Use about 1-2 teaspoons of dried rosehips per one cup of water, depending if you are using crushed or whole fruits. You can either steep it or boil it. In a small saucepan bring water to boil and add dried rosehips to a boiling water. Let it boil over low fire for about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, bring fresh water to a boil and let the rose hips steep for 10-15 minutes in a covered teapot or a mug. Strain and serve. If you feel creative, blend rose hip with other fruits or flowers. For example, rose hips and green tea or rose hips and rooibos tea make a wonderful cold brew or iced tea.Simple LooseLeaf Tea Co
Rose-hip syrup makes an excellent alternative to custard or chocolate sauce (C. Loewenfeld & P. Black, The Complete Book of Herba and Spices, 1974), it is good with Museli, spread on bread and can be made into wine. Discover Wildlife’s recipe uses whole rosehips rather than dried. Mary’s Nest says either can be used, so here is her recipe for dried rose-hip syrup:
- 4 cups Water
- 1 pound dried Rose hips,
- 1 cup Raw honey optional
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add dried rose hips to boiling water. Stir, bring back to a boil, then turn off heat.
- Allow rose hips to steep in hot water for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, strain the resulting rose hip tea through a cheese cloth or flour sack towel lined-strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl.
- Wash pot well and make sure there are no rose hips remaining. Add rose hips tea back into the pot and bring up to a boil, then turn down heat to medium and allow to simmer until reduced by half.
- Once reduced, pour tea into a measuring cup and allow to cool slightly. If using honey, add it now. Mix well and allow the honey to dissolve completely. Decant syrup into a bottle and refrigerate.
- Syrup should stay fresh for at least six months, but may stay fresh up to one year.
But why not go one step further and make for breakfast or dessert, the recipe for this week, a delicious rose-hip soup. Nypon souppa is a Swedish soup served as a beverage or as a dessert with milk, cream or vanilla ice cream along with small almond biscuits. Enjoy!