Foraging for Rosehips

Yesterday my friend Katherine and I went foraging for rosehips and apples. There are plenty of old rosebushes growing wild along the country roads of Tasmania, and plenty of old apple trees growing in ditches along farm fence lines as well.

We were on a mission. Last year we picked rosehips and I made a litre or so of rosehip syrup which I used for frivolous activities like making salad dressing. Katherine made six litres of it and took a spoonful every day from May to September and swears it is the reason she doesn't get sick over the winter. It may very well be so. Rosehip syrup is very high in Vitamin C and who knows what other compounds. During World War II in Britain the government sent a request to all the Women's Institute groups to pick rosehips to supply a healthy tonic for British children. It tastes delicious, which must have been rather a relief for the children who were no doubt regularly administered doses of castor oil and other nasty concoctions to keep them healthy and regular.

So, rosehip syrup for health this year. Plus, travelling the back roads of Tasmania and stopping to pick scarlet rosehips while catching up with a good friend? What could be better? As Katherine noted, more fun than a flu shot. When we had picked a sufficiency of rosehips we started hunting for apple trees. Katherine has a new fabulous apple picking doohickey, which is like a basket on a pole to pick hard-to-reach apples. This was excellently efficient and entertaining. I wish I had taken a photo, but we were laughing too much. All the trees seemed to have planted themselves in ditches by the side of the road, generally in the centre of blackberry patches, and it was all we could do not to fall in whilst woman-handling the apple picking contraption. At the first tree we stopped at, a bevy of chickens was milling hopefully about waiting for apples to drop from the sky for their lunch. When we arrived and started picking and dropping apples they were very excited. I am glad to think that we brightened the day for some hungry chickens.

Of course, we brightened our own day too, coming home with bags and bags of delicious apples and lots of rosehips. Apple crumble has now been on the menu two days running already, with more to come.

It may be that you live in a land of rosehips and apples, or maybe not, but wherever you are, there is likely food on the side of the road to be gathered. What do you forage for and glean in your patch of city or countryside?


Anonymous said…
Hi Jo. I have picked crabapples from a tree in the CBD (early in a Sunday morning), and apples from a huge old tree that used to be behind a car parking area at the entrance to our town. But it has been cut down so that an enormous roundabout roading system could be built. I preferred the apple tree. In the South Island there is a 120km cycle trail, built on an old railway line, and at intervals along it are old apple trees, all grown fom pips in the apple cores thrown from train windows by hungry passengers.

Domestic rose bushes don't seem to have hips like the wild ones. I'd love to find some one day, and try my hand at syrup-making.
Linda in NZ
simplelife said…
I don't really forage anything, except the few blackberries I ate while on my morning walk. I'm sure there is plenty around me if I took the time to notice. I am a bit scared though, of getting in trouble from the land owner or the plants having been sprayed. I wouldn't
simplelife said…
Oops didn't mean to post that. I was going to say I wouldn't even know what a rosehip was.
Cheers Kate
Hazel said…
My father in law remembers picking rosehips at the end of the war and selling them to the local chemist to make syrup from. I keep meaning to dry some for tea but it seems to be one of those things I never get round to.

Still lots of greens here but flowers are out now, so dandelion fritters are on the menu! I also need to go and pick some for tea and vinegar, then it will be elderflower season! I've seen recipes for hawthorn brandy (a nerve tonic) and hawthorn (May) blossom cordial I want to try too.
Julie said…
Here in the desert southwest of the USA, we can glean mesquite beans to be ground into flour, palo verde beans, prickly pear cactus fruit which makes a wonderful syrup and a deep rich purple dye, amaranth, jojoba beans to press for the oil, and acorns from desert scrub oak. I would love to be able to glean apples and rosehips.
Jo said…
Linda, I prefer apple trees to roundabouts also. I love the story of the apple trees along the railway line. Paul's sister has picked 100kg of apples from old trees along the disused railway line in her village over the last few weeks. I wonder if that is how those trees came to be there?
Yes, the hips from wild rose bushes taste good and smell divine. Domestic roses tend to have mostly orange hips which aren't at all the same..

Kate, it took a long time for me to start being brave enough to eat 'out of the wild'. We are fairly much conditioned to get our food from very specific places.. If plants are hanging over a fence it is perfectly legal to take fruit from them. Or if they are in a public park or on a road or in a public place. When we were picking rosehips from outside a fence near a farmhouse the other day, the owner came out and invited us in over the fence to collect from the other side of the bushes. I have yet to be brave enough to knock on a door to ask to pick fruit out of someone's garden that is obviously not being used, but someone I know who did that is now living with the woman whose door he knocked on.. so obviously you have to be a bit careful..
Rosehips are the 'fruit' of rose bushes. They are the round colourful 'berry' that is left when the flower falls off. Wild, old forms of roses have much yummier rosehips than fancy hybridised garden roses. Mind you, they are not nice to eat raw, much better when cooked in a sugar syrup.

Hazel, I love that story of your father! Sounds like he might have been quite a young boy at the time? How do you make dandelion fritters?? There a re lots of hawthorns about which i am contemplating doing something with. Someone I know made hawthorn Worcestershire sauce. Hawthorn brandy sounds delightful. I feel like I definitely need a nerve tonic.

Julie, all of those things are strange and amazing to me! Although prickly pear was accidentally introduced to the Australian mainland and is now a major pest, and we do have a wild, weedy version of amaranth which grows here in the summer. What do you do with the acorns?

Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

For some reasons roses don't grow wild around here, although the ones in the garden provide plenty of rose hips. Good to hear they taste nice. Cod liver oil is revolting stuff. Yuk! Apples grow wild in these parts and it always surprises me how they fruit without all of the pruning, feeding, and watering that people tell me that fruit trees are meant to need. Nobody other than us and the birds picks them either. A really old timer orchardist (his dad had run an orchard as well back in the day) who I managed to speak with a couple of months ago, and who was also quite an exceedingly polite bloke, the only disparaging thing that he had to say was the the fruit trees in orchards these days were a bit cosseted.

Anonymous said…
And I remember being given Rosehip Syrup and it did taste good.

I also remember collecting rosehips for the schools...this would be in the 50's.
Rationing continued into the 50's.

I foraged mullberries and serviceberries a couple of years ago. The mullberries I just ate, I baked the serviceberries into a pie.
I planted a servceberry tree last year, it's flowering at the hopefully berries in a month, if I can move faster that the Robins


Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

I printed out your rosehip recipe last year, so I still have that, but I completely forgot to gather any rosehips . . .

There is not much wild food to forage around here, thanks to the deer. We used to gather blackberries and mulberries, but they can only be grown behind our 8 ft. tall garden fence now, like everything else. Sometimes we can beat the wildlife to the wild persimmons, but not always. And a neighbor has a pear tree that hangs way over our dirt road and he never picks the pears, so we feel like it's fair to pick up the ones in the road. I have never seen a wild apple tree here, except for small, neglected orchards and they are always on somebody's private land.

I sure would have liked to see you working with the apple picking doohickey!

Hazel said…
He was 10 at the end of the war, so yes, a school boy.
Dandelion (and any other flower fritters- elderflower are excellent) are easy- make a batter, preferably separating the eggs, using the yolks in the batter mixture and stirring the whisked whites in at the end, though that's not essential. Feel free to add a splash of orange flower or rose water, should you have some, or some citrus juice.
We find it easiest to keep a little bit of stalk on the flower, dip it well into the batter and then put it into the hot oil/butter (I shallow fry them). Snip off the stem when it's set, flipping over to finish cooking on the other side. Serve with sugar/icing sugar/honey/lemon or orange/nothing.
Hawthorn was always known as a nerve tonic and now research has shown that it contains lots of things that are good for the heart- I love it when that happens! The hawthorn brandy you make by steeping haws in brandy (with some sugar) and then repeating with the flowers in the Spring. Or vice versa. I like that it uses fruit and blossom.
I've read about haw fruit leather, which sounds worth experimenting with, and I've made haw jelly in the past, for serving with meats and cheese. I've got a recipe somewhere for haw ketchup too. Hawthorn Worcester sauce sounds very intriguing- I'll have to look into that!
Pam in Virginia said…
@ Hazel:

Thanks so much for the fritter ideas. I make fritters out of almost everything, but I've never tried flowers. I've always wanted to try squash blossoms, but hate to pick them off and maybe reduce production? I planted some hawthorn seeds last year; my husband has been taking hawthorn for his heart for years and I want us to have our own supply and, anyway, hawthorn trees/hedges are so nice.

Hazel said…
Hi Pam, you're welcome! With the squash fritters if you use the male flowers you won't decrease production (you could leave one to ensure pollination?), alternatively I've seen a recipe where you pick the flower and tiny courgette (zucchini) together so you get something a bit more substantial.

Good luck with your hawthorn hedge!
Jo said…
Chris, helicopter parenting of fruit trees! I did notice that all of the apple trees we stopped at had cleverly seeded themselves in roadside ditches, which would give them good wet feet and plenty of nutritious silt and runoff from the paddocks..

Marieann, fascinating! I was just looking up rationing in Australia, which of course was nowhere near as severe as in the UK, but even here tea was rationed until 1950. I also had to look up serviceberries, and I love all the different names for them. My favourite is chuckley pear. They look delicious!

Pam, I guess you could forage the deer.. I hear you on the difficulty of following a different hemisphere blog. You think, 'Oh, that's a good idea" but six months is a long time to keep a good idea in your head..

Hazel, like I said in the comment above, do you think you could remind me in spring?? That is the most creative thing I ever heard of anyone doing with a dandelion. I want to come and live at your house.. haw jelly and haw ketchup definitely sound like something I will look into. There is a huge tree up the road, which looks like a hawthorn, but it has
giant red berries. I think it may be a Chinese Hawthorn but I am not sure. I imagine it is edible, but again, not certain. I wish there was someone about I could ask. I need an expert!

Just found your blog looking forward to going through the archives.
Meg said…
Can just imagine the delight of those chooks when they saw you guys coming and offering an apple windfall. And, apple crumble is my most favourite dessert ... think I'm going to have to have some tonight now you've got me thinking about it. No apple trees for foraging round here though there are limes and passionfruits and occasionally cherry toms and things that hang themselves over fences and end up in my pockets. Meg
Jo said…
Mission Money Saving, have fun! And all the best on your money saving journey :)

Meg, mmm, limes and passionfruit to forage. Poor you! I hear you on walking past food that ends up in my pocket.. There is a loquat tree hanging over the fence a couple of streets away and often when walking the dog in the Spring a couple of them end up as my breakfast! I don't think the owner realises they are edible, because most of them end up on the street :(
Hazel said…
Jo, I'll try and remember! And I was thinking your house sounds a very nice place to be :-)
I love a good forage. I've been eyeing off some rosehips on my morning walk so I think you've just inspired me to get foraging. Also currently battling the first cold of the season so this is timely inspiration in regards to its use for keeping healthy. I've enjoyed some great forage finds over the past few months: loquats, peaches, apples and pears.
Unknown said…
I am very keen to forag e for rosehips, where in Tasmania did you find them? I am on the north west coast. Many thanks, Wendy
Jo said…
Wendy, I don't know where you would find them in the northwest, it all depends on whether old roses were ever planted along roadsides there. I am in Launceston and driving along old country roads often reveals a big old rosebush, or in winter, when all the leaves have fallen it's often easy to see the bright red hips as you drive past. A good trick is to keep a lookout in summer as you are driving and notice the roses when they are in flower. The old roses that have the best flavoured rose hips are the pale pink/white ones that grow in great big thickets on the side of the road. Once they would have been part of hedges before barbed wire fences were put in. Other than that, ask around locally, or join one of the Tasmanian foraging groups on facebook. Good luck!
Anonymous said…
Hello there unknown... all the country roads in the Derwent valley have huge amounts of rosehips... they are the type of hips used for commercial syrups... they are nothing like a common rose at all in flower and we’re never planted as such and are more of a noxious weed, I would think they found their way here with rabbits and blackberries etc

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