Wild Things in February - Rose Hips

In many countries, traditional foods are prepared for their medicinal effects. In most of these places, the foods prepared were wild foods, that were cheap and easy to come by. By default, they were local and seasonal. One of the problems that we see with a lot of modern ‘fad’ diets is that in order to actually follow the diet, one needs to fork out a whole lot of money. Most of us just can’t afford to do that, especially not in this economy! Not only that, but it seems mighty suspicious that, in many cases, these products that are toted as panaceas have to come from half way around the world-- noni from Tahiti; acai from Brazil; goji from China. We highly doubt that God (or a higher being of your choice) put all of the good stuff in Tahiti, and left us to fend for ourselves until the advent of globalization. Whether food or medicine, the majority of what we need can be found locally. It might not be trendy, but it will most probably be just as, if not more effective. Wherever you are, you have within your reach an untapped resource: wild foods.

Welcome to the Wild Things Round Up*

My goal here is to demonstrate that eating wild foods doesn't need to be a terrifying endeavour, and that 
our health and our diet need not be dictated by financial status or geographic location

A few things about us and this Round Up:

1. Wherever you are, you have access to Wild Things, even if it means clandestine trips to your neighbor's yard in the middle of the night**. 

2. Foraging is not only for hippies and luddites, though hippies and luddites are both very much welcome (Hi Hippie, Hi Luddite!!). It's easy to assume that everyone who eats this way lives out in the wild, and shuns the material world and/ or technology. But it's not true. This is not a club exclusive to country mice. Bek lives in the middle of a city, and Butter lives in the middle of suburbia. We're both very well adjusted modern women, who love our lives, and happen to love nature as well. 

3. We are not trying to be cave people. Though there are plenty of people in the world who successfully and gracefully live a life that is more similar to how people lived hundreds, or even thousands of years ago, neither of us are that person, and we assume that for the most part, you are not either. It's easy to romanticise, but that is a difficult, hard working life. It's also not NECESSARY to remove oneself from the modern world in order to be connected to nature. And, when it comes down to it, is that not really what we all want a bit more of-- connection. To nature, to community, to other people, to a higher power. It's easy to say "well, if I lived in the woods then I'd be connected to nature, but I live in Los Angeles so I can't be." But that simply isn't true. Nature is everywhere. Life is everywhere. It's not outside of your touch, it's not only available to people who make the sacrifice of modern convenience. You do not need to give up your make-up or your latte. 

A few foraging rules:

1. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING THAT YOU CANNOT 100% IDENTIFY. We cannot stress the importance of this point. People die of stupidity every day. Let's not win any Darwin awards here.

2. Learn and pay attention to your local laws about where picking is legal. 

3. Respect private property. Ask permission. Most people will gladly let you pull up some weeds for them. Most people are delighted to get rid of some of the fruit that rots all over the pavement. Just ask. 

4. Don't take more than you need. Never take rare plants. Learn what's in your area-- only take things that are abundant. This is important. Always think of the future, not just in terms of what you want, but in terms of the ecology of the system that you are taking from. These eco systems have been around for millenia, since long before people got there; don't be the one to change that in one generation. 

Tools you will need:
1. Scissors
2. Pocket knife
3. A local guide book-- with pictures
4. Bags to collect your food into

How to play:
Every month, at the beginning of the month, we will write about a new Wild Thing. We will give pictures, descriptions, best locations, tastes, and a breakdown of its medicinal uses. We will also list any possible toxicity issues. The plants we pick will be those with few if any toxic lookalikes, and if there are, we will give ample warnings. None of the plants we pick will have any potentially lethal lookalikes. Then, over the next month, we, and YOU, will go and find it, and play with it, and come up with a way to use it. Before the deadline, you can email us a link to your recipe, or if you don't have a blog, submit your recipe by email, and then at the end of the month we will provide a list of everyone's adventures. Sounds fun? We sure think so!

Now, we're well aware that we all live in different locations, so there are likely going to be times when what we are looking for doesn't grow where you are.

*No association with Monsanto. 
**Just kidding. We don't advocate stealing. Really, there's no need-- a knock on the door and a "Hey, I noticed that you have an apple tree full of rotting apples. I was wondering, could I take some of them, or pay you for some of them, or mow your lawn for some of them?" Most people are horrified at the thought of taking money for apples, and will drop big bags of them off on your front step for months to come. 

Rose Hips

For our inaugural month, we chose to highlight rose hips (Rosa spp.) because we thought they would be most widely available during varied weather conditions.  Rose hips are best just after the first freeze, but can be used before that, and even dried on the bush.

How to Identify Rose Hips

We started the Wild Things Round Up to reinforce the point that foraging for food and medicine is accessible to everyone, young and old, city and country, all can go wild. And so, one of the reasons we chose rose hips as our first featured herb is that pretty much everyone knows what a rose looks like.

For both food and medicine, it's perfectly ok to use garden roses. The caveat is that you must be absolutely certain, you must know that your garden roses have never been sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Always with foraging, when in doubt, walk away.

If you are hunting for wild roses, they look only slightly different from their garden cousins.  Wild roses tend to grow on shorter, shrubbier plants, with a single row of pink petals, and a bright yellow center.

After roses flower, the bud fades, and a rose fruit - the rose hip - matures.  In the beginning, it is quite waxy and plump, like the apples to which it is related, and can be a bit mealy. After a frost, the hip becomes transluscent pink-red, and develops a stronger flavor.  Rose hips can be utilized both in their fresh and dried states, and can even be picked from the plants in the dead of winter.

Rose hips have quite a few seeds and a thick skin, so must either be de-seeded by hand, strained out, or run through a food mill or cheesecloth to obtain their juices and/or pulp.

Rose hips have a flavor which is a bit like sun dried tomato meets crabapple meets rose. Like the apples to which they are related, rose hips have a high pectin content and gel up nicely.  So, when you create recipes with rose hips, it's often helpful to think of them in apple-like dishes.

To learn about the medicinal properties of rose hips and find a recipe for rose hip syrup, click on over to Bek's site, Cauldrons and Crockpots.

 Pork with Sweet and Sour Rose Hip Sauce

I had a wonderful idea to use Bek's rose hip syrup to make sweet and sour pork.  Only trouble is, I couldn't think of what actually went into sweet and sour pork.  Then I looked up a few recipes online and discovered that it contained decided non-local non-seasonal ingredients like pineapple and red bell pepper, and oftentimes a horrid ketchup-y sauce.  So, as usual, I went off in another direction.  This recipe was inspired by sweet and sour pork, but is certainly it's own animal.

To make the sauce, in a saucepan combine 1/2 c. rosehip syrup, 1 T. white wine vinegar, 1 T. water, 1/8 tsp. ground pink peppercorns, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 T. finely diced shallot.  Bring the sauce to a simmer, and let reduce until it's quite thick.

Meanwhile, season thinly diced pork with salt and pepper, and fry it in a hot saute pan, stir-fry style, until brown and cooked through.  Remove the meat from the pan, and saute your choice of seasonal vegetables.  In this case, I used the only fresh veg I had around - a few parsnips, and some kale from my garden (that plant is ten months old!).

When everything is cooked, toss the meat quickly in the sweet and sour rose hip sauce, and serve over the vegetables.  Top with either toasted sesame seeds or crispy fried shallots.

****Wild Things is a round up recipe challenge.  At the end of February, we'd love for you to share what you've been cooking with rose hips.   You can also contact us at wildthings.roundup@gmail.com *****

I'm sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop.

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