Hail to royals of the hedgerow

The versatile rosehip can be put to a host of culinary and medicinal uses, says Kitty Scully.

In the days before vitamins were sold in jars, people relied on the autumnal abundance of mother nature to fend off winter colds and flus. In this regard, rosehips are the royals of the hedgerow. These vibrant red swellings not only brighten up winter hedgerows but are esteemed for their edible and medicinal merits as well.

A rosehip is merely the fruit of a rose and like the majority of fruits, most of the food value and nutrition lies in the skin of the rosehip. They contain higher percentages of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and calcium than that of oranges, lemons and blackcurrants.

There are thousands of species of roses worldwide with colours and shapes of hips varying from one species to another. When harvesting rosehips for culinary creations, it is best to avoid modern and hybrid varieties and to only use those of our native Dog Rose (Rosa Canina).

Up until the end of November, rosehips are there for the reaping. Needless to say, it is best to avoid collecting them from busy roadsides and fields sprayed with chemicals. Look for deep red, firm, clean, plump, fresh rosehips that are in their prime.

Over-ripe berries will have a dull colour and will be squishy to touch. Rosehips can be used fresh, dried, preserved or frozen to maintain a rich supply of vitamin C throughout the cold and flu season.

Prepare by washing thoroughly, removing stalks and sepals and if freezing, weigh first. Some say that rosehips taste better after the first frost, so freezing the fruit will not jeopardise the flavour.

If you wish to dry rosehips for later use in teas and infusions, place them on a dish inside an oven set below 100°C. Leave the oven door slightly open and dry the hips for about an hour, checking them from time to time.

Rosehips have an unusually fruity, tart, sweet, yet sour flavour. They have traditionally been used to make tea, wine, soup, syrup, jam and jelly. To prepare a simple rosehip tea, crush the fruits and steep for 15 — 20 minutes in boiling water, strain thoroughly to make sure all the sharp hairs are removed and sweeten with honey if desired.

In my opinion, rosehip syrup is really the starting point for all useful rosehip recipes. This relatively easy to make tonic is a delicious way of supplementing one’s vitamin C needs. It can be enjoyed poured over ice cream, yoghurt or pancakes, added to pies, tarts, crumbles or any desert of your choice.

Use it as a cordial by diluting it with still or fizzy water or mix it with hot water to make a deliciously winter warming pick-me-up.

Added to hot port it makes a rather interesting festive tipple. My personal favourite is a generous splash of rosehip syrup over porridge for the perfect winter breakfast.

GARDENNOTES

¦ Carmel’s Garden Centre Kilworth

Co. Cork will host their ‘Annual Simon Morning’ on Tuesday, Dece 11, beginning at 10.30am. Rose Hickey will demonstrate and create Christmas ideas for your home, and all arrangements will be raffled. Refreshments served and all welcome. Carmel is also collecting clothes, duvets, scarfs, hats, and gloves for Simon so please help in this matter. Reminder given nearer the date.

¦ Macroom Flower and Garden Club will hold their gala Christmas demonstration on Thursday next at 8pm in Coolcower House Macroom. Mary O’Keeffe (Ballincollig) will demonstrate “Joy to the World” and all are welcome to attend. Ticket €10 will aid Macroom Community Hospital and World Show. Full information from 087-9821708.

¦ Mallow Flower and Garden Club will hold its annual Christmas gala demonstration on Tuesday, Nov 20, in the GAA Centre Carrigoon beginning at 8pm. Guest demonstrator Breda Crowley will delight on the night and all are welcome. Entry €10.

¦ Kanturk Flower and Garden Club will host guest speaker Malcolm Kitt, Villa Manresa, Cobh, on Wednesday next at 8pm in the Temperance Hall (next to Alley Bar). Malcolm will demonstrate “Carte Blanche”. Tea and coffee served and all are welcome.

¦ Kinsale Flower and Garden Club will host a Christmas demonstration by Rose Hickey entitled “The Magic of Christmas” at their meeting on Thursday next in St. Multose Hall beginning at 8pm. Everybody is welcome.

¦ Clonakilty Flower Club will host its November club night on Monday next at 8pm in Fernhill House. A Christmas demonstration will be given by Brid Coonan and this will be followed by the usual club competition, raffle, and light refreshments. All are welcome.

¦ Ballincollig Flower and Garden club will have a Christmas teaching demonstration and mini-show by Maureen O’Keeffe on Monday next in the Oriel Hotel at 8pm. Visitors welcome.

¦ Griffins of Dripsey continue their free talks (on ‘How to Create a Floral Centre Piece’) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next at noon and all are welcome. Free food tasting and prizes all this weekend.

¦ Hosfords Enniskean announce that their closing down sale continues on tomorrow Sunday from 2p to 5pm. They thank all those who supported them of late, and especially down through the years.

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