18 October 2013


Yes, Garden65 is making a return appearance on the interweb stage. I was going to retire her, given she had got to 18 months old (a long time for one of my projects) and was shedding readers like an autumnal tree drops its leaves. I'm guessing there are currently 4 of you out there, and an intermittent mother.  However, the echoing void of my current empty-nest status has highlighted the need to have something to fuss over.  Hence Garden65's creaky resurrection.

Today's post is about my recent attempts at foraging. This is a nice topic for this return to blogging because the word 'forage' means to wander for food or provision, and is not the communication with friends (via a blog) a food for the soul?

So ...

I had a fantastic time in Fletcher Moss picking rosehips and hawthorn berries. They are the most beautiful vibrant red, and were surprisingly easy to pick. Rose and hawthorn shrubs are scattered throughout the park area, but the hedges around the cow field were more or less entirely made of rose and hawthorn plants. This is no doubt because they both have long thorns to discourage animals from pushing through, but I couldn't help wondering if in times past they were also planted because they grow edible berries and medicinally useful leaves. Today do we see the pretty flowers and berries as merely a lucky coincidence and only of visual value?

Rosehip Syrup Recipe

chopped rosehips

The syrup is made with the same steps as you would make a jam: cook the fruit then add sugar. BUT the purpose of using rosehips is to preserve the vitamin C content. During the war people were encouraged to make this syrup because citrus fruits were in short supply. The problem is that vitamin C is water soluble, and I would imagine also easily lost in high temperatures. Consequently you must avoid boiling the hips for too long.

First you need to chop the rosehips up. Which is difficult because they are so tough. I read one blogger's food blender struggled so much that it blew up!  I more modestly used a knife.

Hairs from inside hip on knife used to chop them

At first I thought the hips were producing an oil because my fingers were silky smooth, but then realised  the huge amount of tiny hairs from the inside of the hips were producing a slippery effect. Eventually they got a bit itchy as well.

Cross section of rosehip

To reduce the amount of time the rosehips are in water you boil up the pan of water first then put them in and only boil/simmer for 15 minutes.

You then sieve out the liquid using a jelly bag or muslin. I used a couple of Liz Earle cloths. And then repeat the process again.

Boil the final amount of liquid to reduce its volume then add sugar, but only do this final sugar boiling for 5 minutes. I made the mistake at this stage of being so concerned about losing vitamin C that I didn't boil enough, so my syrup is really a rather thick liquid, but still, 'tis made.

rosehip syrup and hawthorn tincture
Rosehip syrup in background., hawthorn tincture in foreground

I'm putting the syrup on my breakfast cereal in the hope I'm getting a massive dose of vitamins, but really it's only a matter of faith, it hasn't been verified in a laboratory and there is no bodily proof. I'll be cross if I get a cold though.

Hawthorn Tincture

Drying hawthorn berries
Aren't they lovely?

Now, the syrup may be delivering some nutrition but at the expense of increased sugar intake, and that's something I really should avoid, what with the biscuit eaten with the coffee and the late night 'I deserve it' chocolates, so my next recipe had to be sugar free.

At first I tried Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's haw-sin sauce. It's a nice easy recipe, but goodness it smelt bad! It smelt like foxes and all the nefarious activities that take place under a hedgerow. Reader, I chucked it.

The next idea is Hawthorn Tincture. This involves soaking the berries in vodka for 3 weeks.

The red colour disappears during the soaking

Hawthorn Tincture

Hawthorn is good for the heart. Unusually for old herbal remedies this effect is acknowledged by scientists, although they haven't isolated the active chemical yet. Anecdotally a friend of mine said his mother was cured of angina by taking hawthorn tincture.

Sounds like its potent stuff ... trouble is I haven't got any heart problems. I only made this because I had a load of berries to use and I do like boiling things up on a quiet afternoon.

I've now got a bottle of strange tasting vodka to get through. If you know someone with heart problems let me know and you can have it.