Hands up who remembers keeping the winter chills and ills at bay with rosehip syrup? Memories of a spoonful stirred into a glass of hot water, producing a beautiful rosy-coloured drink, is as much a part of my childhood winters as open fires and flannel vests.
I hadn’t thought much about rosehip syrup as being something that’s disappeared off our shelves in New Zealand until I stumbled on a piece on the internet about some of the history of the brew that was made from wild-growing Central Otago sweet briar hips (Rosa rubiginosa).
During World War 2 the hips were sent to factories in Dunedin to be made into syrup which was used by mothers and children, including infants, to boost Vitamin C intake at a time when fresh fruit and vege weren’t always plentiful. Read more about that here (with photos of the briars growing wild).
Mothers received government coupons which could be exchanged for rosehip syrup (wonder what we’d give coupons for now?) Apparently rosehips have 20 times more Vitamin C than a comparable weight of oranges.
Muriel Bell is a name not well known in New Zealand, but what a life of achievement she led, particularly concerned by the need for a healthy diet (and this was in the first half of the 20th century). In among all her projects – pasteurised milk, the vitamin content of fruit and vege, fluoridated water and better-quality bread – was the promotion of rosehip syrup for mothers and babies during the war years. Needless to say, this health advocate (and a doctor and a scientist) was known as “Battle-axe Bell”.
The Curious Kai blog has a great posting about rosehips so I’ll shut up and let you click on the link and read that (includes a recipe and lots of pictures). The Heritage Roses NZ website also includes a recipe for rosehip syrup, while Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a fairly simple-sounding recipe.