Monday, 22 August 2016

Of The Day #15 - Plant - Rowan

Rowan, Mountain Ash

The rowans or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in the genus Sorbus of the rose family Rosaceae. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

The name "rowan" is recorded from 1804, detached from an earlier rowan-tree, rountree, attested from the 1540s in northern English and Scottish.

Rowan is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - butterflies and moths and may account for the eggs found on a leaf and recorded in an earlier post here. with a full list here

The Rowan bears fruit in abundant clusters in the late summer and early autumn - and are really attractive to birds - leading to a colloquial name - bird catcher

The tree was also called wayfarer's tree or traveller's tree because it supposedly prevents those on a journey from getting lost. 

The fruits of European Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) are edible! though bitter when raw, this disappears once heated or frozen - Rowanberries can be
- made into a slightly bitter jelly which in Britain is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game
- into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruit.
- a substitute for coffee beans,
- used in alcoholic beverages: to flavour liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavour ale.

In Austria a clear rowan schnapps is distilled which is called by its German name Vogelbeerschnaps. Czechs also make a Rowan liquor called jeĊ™abinka and the Welsh used to make one called diodgriafel.

Some Recipes

Rowan Jelly
A beautifully clear jelly made from rowan berries and apple.

900g cooking apples
1.3kg rowan berries
1 litre water
450g sugar per 600ml juice

Put all the fruit in a large preserving pan and barely cover with water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Allow to drip through a jelly bag overnight.
Measure the juice and weigh out the correct amount of sugar. Add the juice and sugar to the cleaned preserving pan, and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
Increase the heat and cook at a full rolling boil for 5 minutes, then test for a set. (see tips on jelly making below). When the jelly has reached setting point, pot into hot, sterilized jars, seal and label.

Cook apples in boiling water until soft. Add the rowan berries and reduce to a mush. then strain through a jelly bag overnight. Measure the juice and add correct amount of sugar. Boil until the liquid has reduced giving a thickened texture. Skim off any scum then bottle in sterile containers.

Rowan syrup
High in Vitamin A & C, stimulates the metabolism.

1kg ripe rowan berries
450g sugar
2 tsp salt (to counteract the bitterness of the rowan berries)
3l water

Sort your berries or hips out, removing sticks and any spoiled ones. Chop roughly and
put into a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 or 3 cm above the berries. (About 2 litres of water
per 1 kg of fruit). Bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Roughly mash the
berries with a potato masher to release all the juice. Leave to cool for 15 minutes or so. Strain through
a jelly bag (or piece of muslin) and put the berries back in the pan and add one more litre of water. Repeat then strain.
For each litre of juice add 300 g of sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Pour into sterilised bottles, cap and leave to cool. Can be kept in a cool dark place for up to a year.

Rowanberry Wine 

2kg rowanberries, snipped off with scissors, picked over and washed
1.2kg sugar
500ml white grape juice concentrate
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp of wine tannin
1 tsp pectolase
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Sachet of white wine yeast
About 4 litres of boiling water

Put the berries in a food grade plastic bucket and mash them coarsely with the end of a rolling pin. Boil the water then stir in the sugar until dissolved, bring to the boil again and immediately pour over the berries. Cover and allow to cool. Add the grape concentrate, pectolase, lemon juice and tannin. Cover and leave for 24 hours then stir in the yeast nutrient and yeast (activated if necessary).
Cover and leave for a week, stirring every day for the first five days. If your brew has separated nicely into three layers – sludge / liquid / sludge – carefully place the end of a siphon at a strategic height and siphon off the liquid into a clean demi-john – though a bit of sludge won't hurt. Otherwise strain through clean muslin using a funnel. Top up to the bottom of the neck with boiled and cooled water if necessary. Fit your bung and fermentation lock and leave to ferment for a couple of months.
Rack off into a fresh demi-john and leave until all fermentation has stopped for a week, then bottle. Rowanberry wine benefits from a long maturation period in the bottle – at least a year.

The fruit has many health benefits - however - when rowan berries are picked in the wild, they contain high levels of parasorbic acid, which can actually cause kidney damage, indigestion, and a range of other illnesses. Once frozen or heated, though, this acid changes to the beneficial sorbic acid, which our body finds very useful.

It's unlikely that anyone would keep eating the raw berries -they are very very bitter!

This haul was harvested from the site of our SURVEY event - where as with many other areas of British cities, the Rowan is planted as part of a civic planting scheme. This means cities in August will always offer an abundant berry harvest for birds and humans alike!

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