Blood Red Rose Hips.

Here’s a seasonal recipe from my old food blog that I thought appropriate for the cold and flu season – and the rose hips were looking particularly vivid in my garden this morning…

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The garden is deeply asleep. All is brown and wilted and curled with cold, except for the bright blue sky and the blood red rose hips. I walked out across the frosted garden this morning to watch the sun rise from the orchard, and the wild rose with her bright red berries was spectacular, and even more impressive for remaining unruffled after the blustery weekend. It was one of those very still, crystal clear mornings that are completely worth soaking your shoes though and letting your cup of tea go cold, and the perfect moment to collect a few of those bright red berries to help you get through the rest of the winter.

img_0524I know it sounds a bit ‘wartime kitchen’ to be making your own rosehip syrup. I was dubious the first time I made it, and quite convinced it would fall under the category of vile but nutritious. I was wrong, very wrong, and now I make a batch every year; it is part of the onset of winter and its taste has become evocative of cold mornings and low sunlight.

So how do you use it? There are lots of suggestions out there but my particular favourte is to swirl on natural yoghurt and muesli for breakfast, or as a sweetener in herb tea, or, as a rather chi-chi drizzle over vanilla ice cream. It’s a remarkably versatile sweetener whose flavour is both familiarly flowery and yet unusual: get your friends to guess its name and they will fail everytime. But rosehip’s greatest gift to us is its incredible levels of vitamin C; take your rosehip syrup everyday and you will never have a cold again! (Disclaimer: This may or not be true. You’ll have to take it up with my great grandmother.)

One important note – please consider the wild birds and other little creatures of our gardens and hedgerows that have to survive the cold winter. Take only a few berries from each rose bush, and even better, put out a little food to replace what you have taken. It’s also worth considerng extracting a few hairy seeds and sowing your own future rosehips, or maybe even taking a cutting for a swifter harvest. Not only is it a vital food source in winter, it’s also a great nectar plant for summer bees.

Rose Hip Syrup:

This is a variation on the original World War Two recipe issued by the British government.

250g Rose hips.img_0525
125g Sugar.
750mls Water.
Bring 500mls of the water to a boil.
Wash and then chop your rosehips in a food processor and add them to the boiling water.
Bring back to the boil then remove from the heat and allow to steep for 25 mins.
Pour water and rosehips into a scalded jelly bag (or a large metal sieve lined with boiled muslin).
Allow to drip through and then squeeze remaining pulp to extracct as much juice as possible.
Add another 250mls of water to the pan and bring back to the boil.
Add rosehip pulp and repeat steps 3-5.
Return rosehip juice to the pan and add your sugar.
Simmer until dissoved.
Allow to cool a little then strain through scalded muslin into scalded jars.
OR, Allow to cool completely and freeze in ice cube trays.

The instructions look laborious, but once you’ve made the syrup it becomes very straight forward and something that can be done on the side whilst making dinner. With regards to jars vs ice cube trays, I far prefer the ice cube trays as you’re free to use as much or as little as you wish without worrying about a jar full of syrup becoming a biological experiment at the back of your fridge.

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So here’s to our glorious Rosa Canina: beautiful, nutritious and storm-proof.

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