Friday, 9 November 2007

Rosehip Syrup

This year the fruit harvest has been good both in the gardens and in the hedgerows. Blackberries, sloes and elderberries have been plentiful and I collected some of each as they became ripe. There are also a lot of rosehips about this year but I have not collected them since I was a child when we used to remove the hairy seeds and call it itching powder. Rosehips have twenty times the level of vitamin C as oranges and during the war when shipping was disrupted and fruit from abroad was not available, large quantities of rosehips were collected by volunteers to be made into syrup. From 1943 - 1945 the annual amount collected was 450 tons. The syrup was sold for 1s 9d (about 8p) for a six ounce bottle but mothers and children could get larger quantities at reduced prices from welfare clinics.

In the latest Permaculture Magazine there was a recipe for Rosehip syrup so I decided to have a go. The recipe in the magazine seemed to be based on the recipe given out by the Ministry of Food in 1943 and which I found reprinted in Food for Free by Richard Mabey.

The original recipe used 2lb of rosehips but I just did half the quantity.

Mince 1lb of rosehips and empty straight into one and a half pints of boiling water. It is important to put the hips in the boiling water immediately after mincing to minimise the loss of vitamin C.

Stop heating and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Then filter the mixture through a jelly bag. Put the mixture remaining in the bag back in the saucepan, add 3/4 pint of boiling water, allow to stand for 10 minutes and then filter thorough the jelly bag again.

It is important to remove all the hairs that cover the seeds as these will be an irritant if swallowed. The recipe suggested refiltering the first cupful of juice to make sure all the hairs are removed.

This close up photograph of the jelly bag showed a number of these little hairs so to be sure to remove all of them I filtered the juice through a paper coffee filter!

Place the filtered juice in a saucepan and boil until the volume is reduced to 3/4 pint. Add 10 oz sugar, boil for 5 minutes and then pour into hot sterile bottles and seal.

I didn't have any bottles so I put mine in jam jars.

The original storage instructions were to store in a dark cupboard and to use the syrup within one to two weeks of opening. I think that it would keep for longer than that if it was refrigerated as there is quite a high sugar content.

I have tasted the syrup and it does taste just the same as the "Delrosa" rosehip syrup that I remember from when I was little. Although Delrosa syrup has not been available in the UK for some years, it can still be found in some countries.

I wonder whether in the future when we need to depend more on locally produced foods, we will once again be gathering rosehips on a large scale to make this vitamin C rich syrup.


Moonroot said...

Oh I loved rosehip syrup when I was a kid! And I love it now, too. Yum.

Heather L. said...

I just loved your post! I saw some rosehips the other day as we were driving! They are so pretty. And I didn't know about the rosehip syrup during the war. I'm fascinated with learning about WWII and was always asking the older folks about it when we lived in Scotland. Somehow I missed the rosehip syrup in those conversations.
Your pictures were great! The coffee filter sounds like a good idea! Such a beautifully colored syrup!

the flour loft said...

I had always wondered about the 'itching' powder quality of rosehips as i too remember this from my childhood. I actually have the Richard Mabey book.. feel a reading session coming on.
Thanks for this and the clear instructions.

barefoot gardener said...

Thank you for this very informative post! I will definitely be trying this one out!

Jill said...

wow, that looks fantastic, can you use the hips off any old rose bush? I shall have to sneak around the neighbourhood in the dark, looking for rose hips !!!

kathyann said...

Takes me back to my chidhood,we used to have rose hip syrup and never seemed to get many colds mind you we were hardier then ,we had no cental heating,my bedroom window used to freeze up on the inside , it was blankets and eiderdowns on our beds and we put our coats over the top for extra warmth and a cardigan and socks as well as our flanellette pyjamas.It was a dose of rosehip syrup and a mug of hot chocolate ,a hot water bottle and off to bed .Would it make a rosehip jelly if you added gelatine to it ?, must give it a try ! Love from Kathyann ( meg's mum's muffins )

Rowan said...

I remember rosehip syrup too and knew about the high vitamin C content. It was interesting to read how to make it and the finished syrup looks beautiful. I may try it next year if there are plenty of hips again. The idea of filtering it through a coffee filter paper was a really good one.

Moonroot said...

Excuse me butting in on your blog, ,Willow, but in answer to Kathyann's query about rosehip jelly, I made a really delicious crabapple & rosehip jelly one year. I'm not sure if rosehips have enough pectin to make a jelly on their own, but they worked brilliantly with the crabapples.

willow said...

Thanks for the comments. Its nice to hear that several people remember taking rosehip syrup from childhood. I hadn't had any for years but the flavour brought back the memory, I even remember the shape of the bottle.

Jill, I am pretty sure that cultivated rosehips are also suitable as I have read of gardeners collecting the hips during the war but perhaps you should check first, I think that the hips were mainly collected from the wild.

Kathyann and Moonroot, I am sure rosehip and crab apple jelly tastes really good. I've mixed elderberries with crab apple (50/50) taking advantage of the pectin in the apples to make a jelly. I haven't any crab apple juice left now so I can't try rosehip this year but maybe next.

nĂ  said...

thanks for these rosehips hints! i have been wanting to go gather them for quite a while now, but waiting for the first frost to appear! perhaps this weekend will be just right! and perhaps i'll manage to make some syrup! thanks

tash said...

Well done you for making it - my mum talks about having to take it as well as a concotion of molasses and cod-liver oil which she was less happy to take!

Reading some of the books about thriftiness and wild-food eating during the war, it's really interesting to know that things like this with their high vitamin content and free availability really did keep Britain going.

Animal Vegetable Mineral said...

This was a very informative article. Thank you for taking the time to illustrate the recipe and process.

I am fascinated by methods of making do: my grandparents/great-grandparents were farmers during the Great Depression, and utilized all sorts of "make do" methods and recipes...It's almost 80 years later, and I was hiking with my dog through a field covered with an invasive rose bushes. There are plenty of rose hips available right now, after the first frost, and I am definitely interested in putting these to use! Thanks again.

Tamra Stallings said...

I have tons of hips this year, and am searching for ways to do them. How is the syrup used? Is it just taken by the spoonful as a tonic? Would it be good on pancakes?

anne said...

I have just had a conversation with some old Scottish friends about the rose hips.As children on the weeekends we were sent out to the country side to collect the hips.we would take them to school and someone would come in and weigh them and the school was .this would be about 1949-60the syrup was called Delrosa and was delicious.Families with small children got it really cheap along with the toffe malt and cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice.It made up for the rationing that was going on with other food items after WW11 .Children were also utilised to lift the potatos and turnips on the weekends and holidays we got paid,it kept us busy no time for high jinks.Some of my fondest childhood memoriesare of those days

willow said...

Anne, Thanks for the comment, interesting to hear from someone who remembers the rosehip picking. I imagine that it took a while and was quite a prickly task.
I was thinking about this post and about rosehips when I was out walking yesterday and saw some lovely ones. I think all the berries are early this year.

Simon said...

Just gathered a kilo of hips from the rose bushes planted around my council workshop. These hips follow the gorgeously smelling pink rose and are huge and very sweet. My recipe came from 'Eat Weeds'.
What I'm not sure about is how much to take on a daily basis? one teaspoon or two etc. Can anyone give a guide?.


willow said...

I don't have much information about dosage of syrup and of course homemade syrups would all be slightly different depending on the hips themselves and the way the syrup was made.
When hips were collected during the war for syrup manufacture, Vitamin C was considered the main health benefit. Delrosa was still around when I was little and I remember being given a desert spoonful or a small amount diluted with water to make a drink. I have seen a commercial syrup that stated the vitamin C content was 30mg/ 10 ml. I think a teaspoon is about 5ml so two teaspoons could give about half the adult requirement for vitamin C.

Recently there has been research into the use of rosehips to help joint pain but I can't find any information about the dosage of syrup - the work has been done on concentrated powders and relates to different active ingredients.

simplesmentepapel said...

don´t u think that boiling the syrup destroys the vitamin c in it?

willow said...


I agree, boiling the juice would reduce the vitamin C content. The commercial syrup would also have been heat treated and I imagine that the vitamin content of home prepared juice to be similar to commercial syrup.

Eating raw rosehip pulp would provide higher vitamin C levels than boiled but only if it was freshly pulped. Chopped and pureed materials do lose vitamin content on storage - hence the advice to chop fruit and vegeatables just before eating. Boiling the hips immediately after mincing denatures the enzymes that contribute to the vitamin loss.

Perhaps the best compromise is to eat fresh and raw pulp when available and the heated syrup at other times of the year. Certainly the heated syrup still has useful levels of Vitamin C.

Keith. Hawkes said...

How can you eat raw pulp if you have to remove the hairs that cause the itching.

willow said...

I don't really have an answer to this. The hairs are found on the actual seeds and in the cavity which surrounds them. I suppose it would be possible to separate the flesh without the hairs but I don't think it would be easy.