First published Oct 2015
Autumn is the perfect season for foraging as the hedgerows burst forth with elder, bramble and sloes. Among these sit an often forgotten bounty of ruby-red wild rose hips, once a very popular crop for those seeking winter nutrition. This member of the Rosaceae family is a relative of apples, quince and the ancient medlar – with many similiar qualities.
From exploring vikings of the 9th century to school children in World War Two; generations have long been aware of the benefits of consuming the fruits of Rosa Canina. Famously high in Vitamin C they are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, with additional research suggesting that they may deliver beneficial anti-inflammatory properties useful in the treatment of arthritis and heart disease.
The downside to converting your haul into a syrup is the high sugar content required to balance the natural tartness of the hips. In an attempt to address this I have used the less processed (but still a sugar of course) honey. You may question the true content of vitamin C after boiling – my own research shows that the cooking process only destroys around 15%. A lower sugar preserve will not last as long but can be frozen; a process which also has no discernible impact on the vitamin C.
Notes on picking rose hips
Wait until the hips are dark red in colour and soft enough to pull off the plant easily. Make sure that they are not in a spot that is regularly sprayed with weedkiller and wash them thoroughly before use.
- 1 kg of foraged rosehips
- 1 1/2 litres of water
- 340g jar of honey
Wash your rose hips well and pinch off the top and bottom with your fingers. Rinse again. Rough chop with a sharp knife.
Place the hips and water in a large pan. Bring to the boil and reduce to a slow simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside for about an hour.
After an hour sieve the juice into a large jug and discard the rose hips.
Strain the juice again through a piece of muslin or an old tea towel. Repeat to ensure that the tiny little hairs from inside the rose hips are thoroughly removed.
Clean your pan and return the orange pink juice with around 100g of the honey. Warm through, stirring continously until the honey is completely dissolved. Taste.
If the syrup is still too sharp add more honey and continue until you are happy with the flavour. I find that about 150g – 170g of honey will usually suffice. Decant the finished syrup into bottles whilst still hot.
Add your rose hip syrup to hot water and lemon; dilute with sparkling water for a refreshing long drink or drizzle onto porridge an a cold, frosty morning.