Firstly today, fragrant and edible flowers of the urban prolific Rosa rugosa. It is much used by urban landscapers and I think, underused by urban foragers. To be used as any other rose, ensure they are clean and unsprayed as ever.
Next is Cleavers (Galium aparine), still looking fresh and cleansing in the Volkstuin area of Frankendael.
Here is a mature Ginkgo biloba tree which I hadn’t noticed until today. Recently I learned that in some parts of the world it is illegal to plant female Ginkgos because the smell of their fruit is so obnoxious! Perhaps this one is a male? Either way, the leaves will be ripe for the picking and eating or tea making in a few months. There are a great many Ginkgos in Amsterdam.
Above is a small Ladies mantle (Alchemilla) plant. This is a bitter and very useful herb. I grow several on my roof and sometimes eat the flowers as a garnish. The leaves are good as a bitter tea and can be used to make a good breast toning oil. That is one of their traditional uses.
Lastly today, another coppiced Willow living in apparent intimate harmony with a different plant species. This time the lodger USA flowering Elder (Sambucus nigra). Two great herbs together!
Rose is the plant of love, grown and used by women and men for millennia. There is much folk and magical lore associated with the rose, I shall post about this another time. Its petals can strengthen the heart and spirits and are found to have a cooling tonic effect on the female reproductive system. Rose hips are often used as a preventative tonic to strengthen the immune system and to aid those who are convalescing.
There are several species of wild rose in the UK: dog rose, Rosa canina; field rose, R. arvensis; sweet briar, R. rubiginosa; burnet rose, R. spinosissima and downy rose, R. villosa . R. alpina and R. rugosa also grow wild in the Netherlands. R. canina is probably the most familiar wild rose, with flask shaped hips shown here. Sweet briar is notable for the especially fragrant foliage. The hips of all roses are actually false fruit and the flowers of wild roses have only five petals, little scent and no nectar. Rose hips becomes softer and the dry calyx drops off later in the autumn, usually after the first frosts. Hips are ready to harvest when they are a deep red (or purple with R. spinosissima) and can be pulled from the plant with little effort, without damaging the foliage.
Rose hips (NL: rozenbottels) are a particularly rich source of vitamin C and rose hip syrup was produced in quantity and rationed in the UK during WWII. Roosvicee is a popular brand of rose hip based drink, here in the Netherlands. Rose hip jam has traditionally been produced in Germany (Roosvicee also produce rose hip jam), rose hip soup is still popular in Sweden and a wine based on rose hips has traditionally been brewed in Sweden and Russia.
Rose hips are used medicinally in teas (1 – 2 tsp hips or 1/2 tsp powder in a 2 cup pot of water), infusions (steeped for up to 4 hours) and syrups. Hips may be used fresh or dried. Once dried they can be ground into a powder. Most recipes call for the removal of the hairy seeds by straining as they can be very irritating.
Rose petals can also be used in a variety of ways such as; layering with grease-proof paper wrapped butter to impart their heavenly aroma into the fat, adding to bath water, eating in salads. I prefer heavily scented garden roses for these uses as I can’t bear to see the flowers removed from wild rose bushes (and they have little scent anyway). Rose petal glycerite is also very simple to make but requires lots of petals.
These days I only have access to small quantities of rose hips and I prefer to make a good strong syrup from them, or a tea if I can only collect a few. Here is a very simple traditional recipe for rose hip syrup which can be used for any quantity of hips. I use this recipe whenever I collect a cup or more of hips and it is beautiful, delicious and useful. The colours and aromas of this recipe are always magical. I have also included a raw syrup recipe, from Hedgerow Medicine, by Julie Bruton Seal & Matthew Seal. I haven’t yet tried it, as I always want my syrup quickly, but it sounds interesting and is thought to have a higher vitamin C level than the boiled version. Do let me know if you make it.
Traditional Rose Hip Syrup
Clean and sterilise your syrup bottles#.
Wash your harvested hips and remove any dry calyxes and stalks.
Measure the volume of your hips and boil them in half that volume of water. Simmer for 20 minutes with lid on pan.
Turn off heat and use a fork to lightly mash up the hips into the liquid.
Allow the pulpy brew to cool to a manageable temperature.
Strain the brew (mashed hips and liquor) through a sterilised jelly bag or tea towel or muslin cloth, into a clean bowl. Get as much juice out of the pulp as possible without squeezing the seeds through the jelly bag or cloth.
Rinse your saucepan.
Measure the volume of the extracted juice and return it to the clean saucepan. Add half that volume of sugar and give it a little mix.
Bring the juice and sugar to the boil then simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Pour the syrup into sterilised bottles, seal with a tight lid and label.
#A guide to how many bottles you will need – Yesterday I collected one and a half cups of ripe hips. This yielded about 150ml of syrup.
Raw Rose Hip Syrup
Clean and sterilise a wide mouth pickling jar (NL: available cheaply in Blokker)
Clean and prepare your rose hip harvest as above – then dry them off.
Gentle score the skin of each hip, a few times with a sharp knife.
Cover the bottom of your jar with a layer of caster sugar. Then make layers of hips and sugar, so that all the spaces between the hips are filled with sugar.
Close up the jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for a couple of months or until the juice has been drawn out of the hips and liquified the sugar.
Strain off the liquid, bottle and store in the fridge.
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