In Ireland there is an old folk tale that warns against picking wild berries after Halloween. The Púka (a mischievous shape shifting Irish fairy) will pee and spit all over the wild berries once October has passed rendering them inedible. So although rose hip berries are visible throughout the winter it’s best to leave them to the Púca!
The rose hip is the fruit of the wild rose, a plant common to the hedgerows, ditches and forests of Ireland. They are particularly abundant along the laneways here in Leitrim. It’s a straggly shrub that can reach up to 10 foot high using neighbouring plants as support and is easily identified by it’s bright orange/red oblong berries.
Rose hips have a variety of names depending on its locality. In Ireland they are sometimes known as magories, which is a corruption of the Gaelic Mucóir, fruit of the sceachóir muc or pig rose. Itchy backs or itchy berries, as anyone who’s received a fistful of the hairy seeds down the back of their necks will testify! Or simply briars.
The berries are packed full of vitamin C. There is over 20 times more vitamin C in rose hip berries than oranges and 4 times more than blackcurrants. It was for this fact that the British turned to the native rose hips when their usual source of Vitamin C was disrupted during World War II. The berries were harvested extensively and converted into rose hip syrup and sold throughout the country.
The syrup has a slight taste of mango with hints of apple. It can be drunk as a cordial or drizzled over desserts or porridge and is a great supplement to help keep colds and flus at bay during winter. It also has natural anti-inflammatory properties and helps to ease the discomfort of arthritis.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for recipe and method!
Rose Hip Syrup Recipe.
It’s best to pick rose hips after the first frost but if you can’t wait you can simply place the berries in the fridge overnight. Wear gloves when picking as the thorns are fearsome!
- 500g Rose Hips
- 1 – 1.3 lts of Water
- 250 – 300 gms of Sugar
Pick about 500g of rose hips. Bring 1lt to 1.3lts of water to the boil. Roughly blitz the berries in a food processor and add to the water. Simmer for about 15 minutes to a soup consistency and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. When cooled enough to handle strain the liquid through a jam/jelly bag or muslin cloth. It is very important to remove the seeds, with their short hairs, as they are an internal irritant. Straining the berries to remove the hairs is the best and easiest way to do this. For every 2 cups of juice add about 1 cup of sugar or similarly for every 500ml add roughly 250gms of sugar. Heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. If you prefer a relatively thick syrup don’t add anymore water, if you’d like a thinner consistency add about 300ml of water at this stage. Remove from the heat and again strain through a jam bag or muslin cloth and add to sterilised bottles or jars, seal and refrigerate.
Unopened the syrup should last about 4 months, long enough to hopefully get you through the winter!