A berry nice time

A little departure from Six on Saturday this week to tell you about my autumnal foraging!

I’ve always loved the berries that adorn the trees and shrubs at this time of year, dripping from branches or twinkling on bare stems like little red, orange or yellow jewels. For a few years now, I’ve been eyeing the rosehips that appear on a large shrub rose by the gate, and this year there are also some lovely, plump looking hips at the new allotment.

The question was, what could I do with them? Well, quite a lot, I discovered. My gardening group members suggested jams, jellies and even a sweet soup, which is popular in Sweden and is called Nyponsoppa (the linguists among you will notice the similarity to ‘Nippon’, and yes this translates as Japanese soup – this is because the hips come from the rose species Rosa rugosa, which colonised large parts of the Swedish coast but originally comes from Japan). I was tempted to try making this curious sounding soup – traditionally served as a dessert with small almond biscuits and a dollop of cream or vanilla icecream – but I decided that I would not overcomplicate things and would start with a basic rosehip syrup.

Rosehips at the allotment

There are many different ways to prepare rosehip syrup, involving various ways of removing the seeds and pesky little hairs in the hips, which are an irritant and are used to make itching powder – now we don’t want that! I have a lovely little French book with recipes devoted exclusively to tree and shrub foraging, La cuisine des arbres, which suggests crushing the hips, soaking them overnight and then straining them.

I adapted this recipe and amalgamated it with a simpler River Cottage recipe which can be made in one afternoon. The time-saving trick is to roughly chop the hips in a food processor (I used the add-on of my blender for chopping nuts). I don’t recommend chopping by hand – I started this way and nearly sliced one of my fingers off – the rosehips are hard and the knife slips off easily! Then you heat them up in water and double strain them – through two layers of muslin cloth, twice, so no hairs remain.

Double-straining the hips through muslin cloth

Sugar is then added – quite a lot – this is the only unhealthy part of the recipe. Rosehips themselves are a superfood, packed to the brim with vitamin C – around 25 times more so than oranges – as well as other vitamins – and are high in antioxidants. They ward off the common cold and flu, fight the signs of ageing, reduce pain from arthritis, lower blood pressure…to name just a few of their reputed benefits.

The finished product

The syrup has lovely warm, floral, rich flavour, and a beautiful amber colour. I thought it was pretty enough for a special photo shoot. I reused an old gin bottle which was the perfect size – but I should have removed the label! The syrup can be used as a cordial, or added to cereal, pancakes, yogurt…I think it would also be lovely drizzled over a simple orange sponge cake.

So if you have a little time to spare, and would like to try making this, then you just need to find a good supply of hips. The best are from Rosa rugosa because they are plump and with a good flavour – but you can do as I did and use other, smaller hips from other rose bushes too. They should be red, and in good condition (avoid shrivelled or blackened ones) – and remember to forage responsibly, leaving some for the birds and small mammals.

29 thoughts on “A berry nice time

    1. Yes that’s true – I would like to try rosehips in herbal teas, maybe mixing with some other ingredients like lemon verbena or lemon balm. You can also put the syrup directly on ice cream – but I am very strange and don’t like ice cream! :-O

  1. It is very good for cold put some in a cup and put boiling water and a spoon of honey full of vitamin c. Well done

  2. That was really interesting. Rose hip syrup sounds rather delicious, as does the soup. I’m sure me and my siblings got into trouble for using the seeds from wild rose hips as a sort of itching powder at school (after mum told us about it!)

  3. How interesting. I recall being given rosehip syrup as a child to prevent colds, but I wasn’t keen on it as it was too sweet. An odd child, I preferred the cod liver and malt!

  4. Rosehip Jelly was a success here last year and I am fortunate to have a few excellent bushes close to home. Rosehip syrup – the ’50s and vitamin C for children. No thanks! Those were the days when an orange in the Christmas stocking was a big treat!

    1. I think forcing things on children is a guarantee they won’t like them! But the tables have turned now and we increasingly shun the exotic in favour of the local and seasonal (but I will still be getting my delivery of Sicilian oranges this year) 😉

      1. We always look forward to the Seville oranges in December/January and the marmalade we make from them Sarah Raven has a good recipe for a three-fruit marmalade which can be made at any time of the year and it is excellent, even better than Seville! Yes, shunning the exotic is something which is becoming more commonplace – I am never inclined, for example, to eat shop-bought apples but eat almost too many when our own are into season. Their freshness beats anything the shops have to offer.

  5. That was an interesting read! I have always wanted to make Rose hip syrup but I cannot source many berries. I will keep the recipe though as you never know, one day I might get the opportunity to try it! Thanks, Sel.

  6. I’m one of those who remembers rosehip syrup from childhood – I always loved it! I like the idea of a champagne cocktail though! Lovely end photo shot 🙂

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