Hips and haws are plump, ripe and plentiful at the moment. However, too few people recognise them as edible (though the birds probably don’t mind this too much).
Take a step back in time, however, and hips and haws were valued more highly. Many people will remember being given rosehip syrup as children (a smart move as they are loaded with vitamin C).
Rosehips were also used to help with bladder disorders, and act as a digestion aid. Boiling the seeds for at least an hour was thought to make a useful tonic to ease gout, arthritis and rheumatic symptoms (something I am tempted to try).
You can make rosehip tea – which has laxative and diuretic effects – by adding a tablespoon of crushed and dried rosehips to a mug of boiling water. This is also thought to ease the symptoms of kidney complaints.
If you’re more mishievously-inclined, you can make itching powder from the seeds and husks.
And if you’re after fertility and wealth, the bulging seed-filled rosehip is thought to be a lucky token. Sleeping with rosehips under your pillow is also thought to protect against bad dreams (unless your nightmares include rosehip-stained pillowcases).
Hips and haws can be used to make jam, fruit leather and wine. They are low in pectin but have an intriguing and delicate taste. I like mixing haws with apples for jam, to balance pectin levels without overwhelming the gentle flavour.
Though less recognised than rosehips, hawthorn has long been used for food and medicine too. Hawthorn leaves were referred to as ‘bread and cheese’ (not because of any similarity in taste: many edible plants were also called ‘bread and cheese’, suggesting it’s a generic phrase for ‘food’). Hawthorn flowers and leaves were also used to stabilise blood pressure.
Then there’s magic. Hawthorn is the the most likely tree to house fairies, according to Celtic mythology: some people even call it the Faerie tree (others call it the May tree, and it has links to May Day celebrations). Harming a hawthorn in any way will invoke the wrath of the fairies – and no one wants that…
Bringing hawthorn blossom into the house is considered unlucky, responsible for bringing illness, or even death, into the home. This is possibly because hawthorn blossom has a smell reminiscent of rotting flesh (as a result of the chemical trimethylamine, present in both hawthorn blossom and dead tissue).
Whether you want something magical,medicinal or just edible, hips and haws are there for the taking. Just make sure you don’t upset the fairies…
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