Roses are not only beautiful flowers to look at, but, come autumn, they produce the most wonderful fruit. We don’t really consider them a fruit anymore, despite the fact that they contain over 50% as much vitamin C as an orange, and this vitamin C is absorbed by your body twice as fast as any man made supplement. Whilst I enjoy an orange as much as the next man, I do find it unusual that we ignore a fruit that is native to much of Europe and the US in favour of fruit that is imported and has travelled a far longer distance to get to our tables. It also goes without saying that they are rich in those free radical fighting anti-cancer anti-oxidants, and have an anti-inflammatory effect as well possibly reducing specific enzymes which break down cartilage in our joints as we age a bit, therefore helping with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
To make the most of this fruit at this time of year, you could dry the hips, for use later in a tea, or you could, as I prefer to, make a rose hip syrup. Parents of the UK were advised to do so during the Second World War to make sure their children were getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. The syrup couldn’t be easier, but you will need sterilised bottles again. Now you should really wait until after the first frost so that the hips are just perfect, but being in south of England, the birds have usually got there first if you wait this long. A good solution is to pick your berries and then freeze them for a week or so. This works well for me as it also allows me to pick smaller quantities, but does mean that I am forever grabbing rose hips wherever I go at this time of year.
You are usually advised to make this in smaller bottles, as once it is opened it does not keep for more than about a week, but I find we get through it so fast, I can bottle it in half litre bottles with no problem. The children all take a large spoonful of it every morning, as it really does help at this time of year in fighting off those cold and flu germs, then we pour it over our porridge and even dilute it as a cordial.
Rose Hip Syrup Recipe
Firstly, take about a kilo of rose hips and wash and prepare them by removing the stalk and the remaining bits of flower that may be hanging on.
Then, bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a large pan.
Place your rose hips in a food processor and blitz so that the hips are broken up, and add them immediately to the boiling water. Bring it back to the boil and then remove it from the heat, and leave it to steep for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
Strain the mixture, through either a scalded belly bag, or a scalded muslin. If you don’t mind a cloudy syrup, you can squeeze the bag, but if you would like it clear, don’t.
Whilst it is straining, bring another litre of water to the boil, and add the pulp form the first straining back to the pan. Bring back to the boil again, and then remove form the heat to allow to steep. I usually leave it for a little longer on the second steep, but if time is of the essence, stick with your 20 minutes, and strain again.
Finally, put both lots of strained fluid back into a clean pan, and add a kilo of sugar (I use brown). Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and then simmer for around 10 minutes, depending on how syrupy you want the finished product.
It should last out the winter, if you don’t use it all! But once it is opened, store it in the fridge for about a week.