During World War II in Britain, the general public were encouraged to return to (or re-learn) the art of foraging in order to supplement or augment rationed foodstuffs. Most of the emphasis was on wild vegetation, there not being a great deal of wild game accessible to the ordinary person. The concept was not just tossed out to the population to follow-up as they saw fit, it was actively promoted and resourced by the government. The Ministry of Food published several leaflets on how to find and use the “Hedgerow Harvest” and County Herb Committees were set up to organize collections on a large scale. The latter was directed particularly towards wild foods with health benefits – many of the sources of fruit no longer being available – and also included foods for livestock feeding, such as horse-chestnuts (‘conkers.’)
One item singled out for particular attention was the rose-hip - a valuable source of vitamin C. The national diet was at some risk of shortage of Vitamin C due to the cessation of importation of fruit such as oranges during the war. The solution was to ask the public to collect rose hips from wild or cultivated bushes, the harvest then to be processed by commercial companies into syrup which could then be made available in the shops. The details and success of the campaign are eloquently told in two articles in The Times [London, England] in autumn of 1941, and mid-winter 1942.
SYRUP FROM ROSE HIPS.
ORGANIZED COLLECTION OF FRUITS.
A national week for the collection of rose hips to be converted into syrup will open next Sunday. The Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland state that these fruits, which in the past have been allowed to go to waste, are 20 times as rich in Vitamin C as oranges.
The collecting is being organized chiefly through schools, boy scouts, and girl guides, the women’s institutes, and the Scottish womens’ rural institutions. The hips, which must be ripe, can be gathered from wild or cultivated bushes, but they should be free from bits of stems and leaves. Haws, the red berries of May, are not wanted. The picking season extends until the end of October.
The collecting organizations will supply the hips in bulk to firms who have agreed to pay 2s. for 14 lb. (minimum 28 lb.), carriage forward. It is hoped that some 500 tons will be converted into syrup, will be converted into syrup, which will be marketed at a reasonable price.
The Times, 22 September, 1941
ROSE HIP SYRUP
SUPPLIES ON SALE NEXT MONTH.
National rose hip syrup, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday, will be on sale in chemists’ shops in England, Scotland, and Wales, from February 1. Rose hips are one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, which is particularly beneficial for children, and the syrup is therefore a useful war-time substitute for orange juice and a distinct improvement on blackcurrant syrup. It is not intended that rose hip should be used by one and all as a tasty addition to everyday diet, but that is should be used for young children only.
The present supplies of the syrup are the result of a campaign organized last summer and autumn by the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland for collecting rose hips. School teachers, boy scouts, girl guides, the W.V.S., women’s rural institutions, and other voluntary organizations co-operated, and some 200 tons, equivalent to 134,000,000 hips, were collected. The hips were converted into syrup by selected firms, and their total output amounts to 600,000 bottles.
A teaspoonful of rose hip syrup a day will supply half the vitamin C needs of a child. It can be taken neat or diluted with water, and has a pleasant flavour. Plans are being made for another collection of rose hips on a national scale this year.
The Times, 15 January 1942
Several recipes using rose-hips were included in the Ministry of Food’s leaflet Hedgerow Harvest in 1943, including this rather interesting one:
Rose Hip Marmalade
The ruby-red seed of the rose makes an excellent marmalade. If you soak the cleaned rose hips for 2 hours in plain cold water; then let boil for 2 hours, and strain. Measure the puree and add l cup of brown sugar to each cup of puree. Let boil down to thick consistency, pour into sterilized glasses, and seal.