Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pocketful of Rosehips

What to do if there's no Vitamin C, and high stress and a cold-house winter dead ahead? There's precedent.

Great Britain normally imported its winter citrus from balmy Mediterranean countries. (And from a few greenhouse orangeries on the old estates, a very small local crop!)

Nazi Germany blockaded the Brits, sinking Merchant Marine shipping. No citrus suddenly in foggy northern islands notorious for damp and horrid winters and no central heating; what to do?

British school children, many sent to rural foster families to escape the Blitz, went into the woodlands and hedgerows to gather wild rosehips, very rich in Vitamin C and other super-nutrients.

The rosehips were de-seeded (a bit tedious but do-able) and made into delicious rose hip jam, syrup, and dried for herb tea. European groceries and pharmacies still stock these delectables.

Wild rosehips are often elongated; garden varieties are more squat and fat. In Maine, I gathered quite large ones, from fragrant Rugosa roses which withstand coastal conditions, in brisk autumns on Frenchman Bay.

One year a home-schooled boy requested a unique birthday present. Would I teach him to make the Vitamin C-rich jam from start to finish? You bet I would!

We gathered baskets of the fruit with surf crashing on pink granite ledges and sea gulls crying overhead. It took us most of the day to our end product (boy became a little scarce through the boring parts!) and our winter of rosehip/honey jam.

At my organic farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia years ago, I'd stand in the snow and nibble frosty wild rosehips and spit out the seeds. Deer and I browsed!

I was reminded of this wild and nutritive bounty in harsher mountains of the American Southwest.

Hiking up into the shimmering autumn gold of quaking aspens this week, I was breathing in the fragrance of conifer resin when I spied wild roses along the mountain stream.

The scarlet to crimson to wine-red thin flesh is still succulent these Indian Summer days and nippy nights; we're expecting hard frost next week. The rosehips will shrivel, darken and dry into winter but remain useful.

I sat on a horizontal fir trunk, bent in its youth by heavy snows, which stretched across the cascading brook. It seemed bonsai'd of extraneous form by generations of gardeners, not Old Man Winter!

As I nibbled the sweet-tart rose fruit, I watched a chipmunk sip water from a pool and a hawk soar above the aspens.

Gathering a few fruit here and there, coming down the trail, I never stripped a bush: leaving bounty for wildlife and to re-seed. I'll dry this small harvest and hope to collect more for a rosehip and elderberry syrup.

With winter coming on and odd rumors of pandemic and perhaps bioterra-research run amok, let's step back a moment. We may come to value Grandmother wisdom and good neighbors as wealth indeed!

Gather ye roses while ye may...

Here's a recipe for syrup using a centrifugal juicer, which I may try: no de-seeding! In the comments section, a caution, however. One experimenter wrecked his juicer.

You'll find other country recipes in 
My organic farm book of stories:


At September 30, 2014 at 1:56 AM , Blogger Wayfarer said...

A dear friend in New Zealand reports the following:

We made and bought rosehip syrup during the war for the vit.C we were not getting from oranges imported in normal times from the Pacific Islands. Since then, we have learnt to grow our own citrus, except in the deep South where it is still cheaper to import lemons from California than from the North Island!!!


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