The timeless pick and pickle of wild food

One of the things I’ve loved about foraging and preserving wild foods over the summer has been the timelessness of it. It’s an activity undertaken by generations of people before me. I would love to be better connected to the European foraging traditions. I simply adore going mushrooming and have taken a great liking to nettles. But my Australian ancestry is Anglo-Saxon, so it’s the hedgerows around northern Tasmania that first drew me in. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love blackberries. Well, there are plenty of people who don’t like the plant, but the fruit: I’ve not met one. Since I started harassing hedgerows and selling something wild, I’ve had people tell me that families used to go out picking rosehips and selling them to drug companies who made the syrup commercially. I’ve had older Australians say they used to make it for their children.

Rosehips are incredibly high in vitamin C and during times when oranges have been too expensive for people to buy, or too scarce, British and Australian children were given rosehip syrup instead. It’s a very labour intensive product, picking the hips will likely take an outing of its own. I find the outing to the paddocks to pick the hips to be very enjoyable but then they need to be topped and tailed and washed. That’s before you boil and strain them, not once, but up to three times. Then you have to add the sugar, boil the syrup, bottle it and process it in a water bath to preserve. While I think rosehip cordial is truly delicious, I can see why it’s not a common product these days. Of course, if you’d like to buy some delicious cordial that I’ve made, I can post you some if you complete the form in my ordering online post.

Grandma's picnic basket filled with hawberries

Grandma’s picnic basket filled with hawberries

I had two sets of wonderful grandparents (I now only have one set of wonderful grandparents). I remember driving in the car with my Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma would joyfully sing wartime songs like:

“Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile…”

We’d pull over on the side of the road anywhere and pull out the picnic hamper and thermos for a cup of tea and a biscuit. I remember them pointing out different trees in the paddocks we drove past. They’d tell me they used to take the family picking those hawthorns or rosehips and take them home to make cordial.

My Grandma died many years ago now, but my Grandpa only died in November. You may remember me posting about his wonderful garden. Well, the family have been very busy cleaning out his house for selling. I was talking about this with one of my aunts who told me Grandma used to make blackcurrent syrup for the children from a recipe she received from the Department of Agriculture. I remember making black current cordial with her in that kitchen, from currents Grandpa and I had picked from the garden. Indeed, I used a very similar technique when making my josterberry cordial earlier in the year. Part of me was very sad when I discovered all Grandma’s handwritten cookbooks had gone from the house, but yesterday I was joyed to tears going through a box of things my Mum sent over for me. Whatever did I find but the letter written to my Grandma by the Tasmanian Department of Public Health with that very recipe attached! I also discovered an old cut out for rosehip syrup, sadly though, it seems I only have half of this paper.

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6 Responses to The timeless pick and pickle of wild food

  1. Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things says:

    Beautiful post, Susan

  2. You had us in tears, too. So pleased for you 🙂

  3. shenANNAgans says:

    Wow, that’s awesome, what a cool post, I love that you have/had wonderful grandparents. 🙂 Super cool seeing the letter, we have a folder of my Grams best recipes that has SO many wonderful gems and secrets too. Its wonderful I will one day be able to share with my kids (if I have them) the family kitchen stories. 🙂 Have a happy rest of week Susan. x

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