Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

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Category: Rose hips

  1. Hip hop

    Posted on

    ruth roserose hip- close upA recent foray in the New Forest yielded, amongst other things, a decent haul of beautiful red rose hips.

    Our main focus was on the iconic rose- hip syrup. This became famous in World war II when supplies of fruit and veg were low, and the Institute for Food hatched a plan to harness the high vitamin C content of the rose hip by collecting and processing it on a grand scale (450 tons a year at its peak). The syrup was then distributed at a fixed ration price with priority given to young children.

    From a medicinal point of view, rose hips (and rose petals in the summer) are a powerful wild rose hip syrupmedicine for treating colds and flus. Firstly, their rich vitamin C content strengthens the immune system, secondly they have a cooling quality that brings down fevers and soothes inflammation and thirdly they are a mild but effective diuretic – assisting the body in the elimination of wastes through the urinary system.

    We gently heated the rose hips for about 20 minutes in a pan with a little water until they were soft and mushy. We then tried straining them through a jelly bag but did not get a lot of juice, so we resorted to pushing them through a sieve – exactly as I did with the hawthorn berries in the last post.

    It was then a case of melting in brown sugar, at a ratio of about 1:1, and sealing into sterilised jars – any sugar would work, but there has to be a lot in order to help preserve the fruit. I guess you could freeze small batches and avoid using so much sugar. Anyway, it's delicious and I’ll be dipping into it over the next few months, drizzling some on my morning porridge on cold winter mornings or mixing a teaspoon full with some hot water for a soothing drink, should any colds or flus start to rear their head.

    While we were at it, we also made some rose leather, taking some of the juice, melting about 20% sugar into it and then laying it out in the dehydrator. Unfortunately, my mobile dehydrator (the car) is no longer a reliable option, now the days are getting shorter and cooler, but an airing cupboard or oven on a very low heat will do the job just as well.

    rose hip vinegarFinally, just a few days ago, I made some rose hip vinegar with a fresh batch of hips gathered from a hedgerow near Arne. I delved into vinegar in the July dandelion post so will just remind you here that using a good quality vinegar is a super healthy and simple way to harness the nutrients from many wild plants. In a few months time, the vinegar will be infused with the potent health-giving properties of the rose hip and I’ll be adding it to all sorts of dishes to get an extra vitamin C kick. Assuming vinegar was reasonably easy to produce, I think this would have been a more practical and potent way of utilising rose hips during the war – no heat involved to damage the vitamin content.

    Foraging considerations:

    There are certain red berries that are very poisonous, so no complacent foraging please. The two most common native roses are the field and dog rose. There are another 12 native wild roses in the UK plus naturalised escapees and various hybridisations, but for the wild foodie it is no great concern as they are all edible and have similar medicinal qualities.

    Two of the best ID points for all the wild roses, and the two things to be cautious of, are the hooked thorns which love to tear at skin and clothes and the mass of small hairy seeds inside the hip, which would be extremely irritating to the digestive tract if eaten – this was the notorious itching powder of childhood.

    Rose hips will often hang on the hedgerow into early winter, giving a welcome splash of colour to an often muted landscape. Once they have been bletted by the frost (softened and sweetened) they can actually be eaten straight of the branch. Pinch between the fingers and, with a bit of practice, you can squeeze out some of the soft sweet flesh and leave the seeds where they are.