tirsdag, september 08, 2009

Rosehips 101

Fruits intended for preservation should be gathered in the morning, in dry weather, with the morning sun upon them, if possible; they will then have their fullest flavour, and keep in good condition longer than when gathered at any other time. Until fruit can be used, it should be placed in the dairy, an ice-house, or a refrigerator. In an icehouse it will remain fresh and plump for several days. Fruit gathered in wet or foggy weather will soon be mildewed, and be of no service for preserves.
-Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

You’ll need
a fine, sunny day
good shoes (you’ll be climbing)
padded bra because THORNS HURT
heavy jeans, ditto
long sleeves
no knit wear!
cup or jug
plastic bags, food grade
small knife
when you’re done: comfrey salve or raw honey is good for healing cuts and scrapes. And you will be cut and scraped.

When to pick
Pick rosehips when they are bright red, hard, shiny and smooth. DO NOT wait until the first frost. The first frost rule is a complete myth, a complete fabrication. Someone must have got rosehips confused with medlars or fruits picked for the seeds. It’s true that frost increases sugar content, so if that’s what you’re after just put them in the freezer. But don’t expect to find good rosehips after the frost.

Rosehips are very individual and they don’t all ripen at the same time. Reconnaissance is key. Note which bushes ripen at what dates so you don’t have to reconnoitre so much next year.

You must heed Mrs Beeton’s advice about the weather. If it rains, don’t bother.

What not to pick
Soft, shriveled, black specked, green striped. Cut them open with your knife to check if they don’t look right. Pulp should be bright orange, clean, very pretty.

I only pick Rosa caninas, the oval ones. Apparently Rosa rugosas, the round ones, are edible too, but they just don’t appeal to me. (For petals I prefer rugosas, but that’s for another season.)

Where to find
I find that the best rosehips grow close to the sea. Anything from at the beach to three kilometers away is good. Seaside hips are generally bigger, brighter and over all healthier and more beautiful than forest hips. I’m not sure if it’s the soil or salty winds, but rosehips and the sea definitely belong together.

Places to look are seaside resorts, along beaches, old cottages, old farms and gardens. Always ask permission before picking someone else’s hips. They will say yes. Because they just don’t have it in them to say no. And because they’ll think that you are Original Eve.

If cottage holders are absent, leave a note for them to mark an X if they'll let you pick their hips. If they haven't found the note, they are probably on holiday in Toscana, and we can assume that you are justified in reaping what they have sowed. Trespassing on wealthy people’s properties is a bit of a treat too, especially on sunny days. Don’t be shy! But don’t be mean, either.

NB: it’s important to know if rosehips have been sprayed with poisons and pesticides. They probably haven't, but only the owners can tell you.

NB: beware that communicating with farmers can be difficult. Farmers are settled people and wary of nomads and wanderers, such as our selves. And you never know what poisons they spray their fields with. And they sure don’t want to tell you. Because they think you are a curious, thieving gypsy.

Do I have to deseed rosehips?
No! That’s insane. Don’t do that, unless you are making marmalade.

Isn’t it too much work?
No! Just make sure you’re not doing it all in one day. And don’t make marmalade.
Day 1: pick and clean. Don’t pick more than six litres per day, because cleaning is quite time consuming. Now rest.
Day 2: (not necessarily the day after) make purée or syrup. Never make purée of more than three liters at a time.

Rosehip purée
Rosehip meal