Hedgerow Harvest: Rosehips and Hawthorn berries

Claire Fleetneedle is back this week with a spoonful of sugar, well syrup, and all from the hedgerow as the end of the foraging season is upon us this #foragingsaturday.

Like many children I was given a spoonful of Delrosa Rosehip Syrup whenever I had a cold coming. Back then it never occurred to me that the glossy red fruits growing on nearby wild rose bushes had anything to do with this tasty syrup. In recent years as I have researched local edibles and sources of free vitamins, Rosehips have figured highly. Rosehips from the dog rose or wild rose contain twenty times more vitamin C than oranges, along with healthy doses of vitamins A, B, D, E and flavonoids. 

Due to the high vitamin C content, they boost the immune system and are effective for the treatment of colds and flu. Syrup of Rose hips has also been used medicinally to soothe stomach upsets and aid those suffering with joint and mobility issues. Consequently there is evidence that Rosehips alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia.


Medical benefits aside Rosehips have a delightfully delicate flavour and make delicious jelly’s and cordials. Rosehip fruit contains tiny hair like barbs which can cause a nasty irritation in the throat, if ingested. These tiny barbs were once used as the main ingredients in the ‘itching powder’ used for practical jokes. To avoid the itchy barbs I always strain my rosehips twice through two cheese cloths to ensure the juices purity. There are many recipes available for Rosehip syrup and cordial, this is mine.


Rosehip Cordial
Note: Research has shown that the vitamin C content in Rosehips begins to diminish once the fruit is picked. A way to stop this is to freeze the hips soon after picking, ensuring the enzymes do not break down further.

1kg of Rosehips
400g of sugar to every pint of sieved liquid

Coarsely grind the frozen rosehips in a blender, then add the hips and 2 pints of water into a jam pan. Boil them for at least 5 minutes then allow to simmer for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat then strain the pulp through 2 cheese cloths and sieve. Leave the juice to drip through for a few hours. Take the strained juice and strain again through a fresh piece of cheese cloth. Measure the juice and add 400g of sugar to every pint of liquid. Return to the cleaned pan and reheat until the sugar has completely dissolved, then pour the syrup in to sterilised bottles. If you can refrigerate it, it will last a few week longer. If not store in a cool dark cupboard, consume within 3 months. 


Another hedgerow berry which grows abundantly at this time of year is hawthorn, a beautiful red berry which looks very appealing but I was always told were poisonous. In truth the fruit is not toxic but the seeds can be and are best avoided. They contain cyanide so the fruit can only be used in recipes which includes the removal of the seeds. Another possible hazard is that due to some of the fruits properties is it wise to avoid them if you have a heart condition or serious circulatory disorders. On a more positive note research has discovered that the berries contain enzymes which lower cholesterol in the blood stream. In folk medicine the fruit’s extract was believed to be a sedative, in more modern times it is believed to aid some of the symptoms of the menopause. The fruit is also high in nutrients, such as vitamin C along with a wide range of B vitamins. 

The flavour is difficult to explain, some say it is similar to guava fruit, but I think it is more a mixture of cherry and sharp apple. The fruit is supposed to be high in pectin but I have found it very difficult to find the setting point when making jelly so I add pectin rich fruits to the mix. I make a jelly to eat with savouries but, be warned, the lack of flesh on the fruit means you need to collect a lot to make any quantity of the jelly. 

foraging, recipes

Hawthorn Jelly

1 kg of Hawthorns
Either the juice of two lemons or a whole bramley apple cored
400g of sugar to every pint of sieved liquid

Remove the Hawthorn berries from their stalks, cut the apple into 4 and try to remove as many pips as possible – or juice two lemons. Put all the fruit and 2 ½ pints of water into the pan and begin to boil. Once boiling turn the heat down and simmer slowly for at least 20 minutes, mash the fruit with a potato masher to release as much juice as possible. When the fruit has broken down sieve the pan contents through a muslin cloth and a colander. This will take up to 24 hours to completely drip through, so it is best to leave it covered overnight. The following day you can squeeze the contents of the muslin to get the last juice out. Measure the liquid and then reheat it, once boiling add 400g of sugar to every pint of liquid you measured. Once you have reached the setting point pour into sterilised jars, seal, label and store in a cool dark cupboard. It should last for at least 6 months.
The finished product is the most glorious shade of red and can make a great homemade Christmas gift. With such wonderful wild fruit at hand it seems wasteful not to utilise this abundant hedgerow harvest, remembering of course to leave some for others, most importantly as food for the birds. 

Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle

Do not eat raw Rosehips or Hawthorn berries
Do not eat Hawthorn seeds
Do not eat Hawthorn jelly if you have a heart condition or a circulatory disorder
These are some of my personal experiences using Rosehips and Hawthorn Berries, combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with an herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.

LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.


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