Recipe: Rosehip and Astragalus Syrup

Rosehip syrup has been made at this time of year in the UK since the recipe was circulated during the 2nd world war as a way of ensuring that we got enough vitamin C during rationing. It makes a delicious drink (I like it with hot water, and a slice of lemon), and can be used to sweeten deserts, yogurt, porridge and so on.

My recipe combines the high vitamin C content of rosehips with the Qi strengthening Chinese herb Astragalus (or ‘Huang Qi’ in Chinese) to make a superb immune boosting syrup for the winter months.

You can pick rosehips as soon as they form in early autumn but they are best once softened by frost. Use the hips from wild roses that are growing anywhere away from busy roads. Wear gardening gloves to avoid getting scratched by the thorns!

Dried Astragalus can be purchased easily online or at Chinese supermarkets (though if you don’t know what you’re looking for you may have to ask!) You can of course omit the astragalus to make traditional rosehip syrup if you prefer.

500g rosehips
500g sugar
1.5 ltr water
10-20 slices dried astragalus

Put the astragalus into the water in a covered pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 mins. Remove and discard the astragalus. Wash and chop the rosehips (you can blitz them for a few seconds in a food processor if you don’t want to chop them by hand) and add to the water. Bring back to the boil and then once boiling, remove from the heat. Leave for 30 mins, still covered.

Strain the mixture through a jelly bag or 2 layers of muslin (or a sieve lined with a clean tea-towel.) This is important to ensure all the irritating hairs from inside the rosehips have been removed.

Set aside the liquid and put the hips back in the pan with another 500ml boiled water. Bring back to the boil, then take off the heat and leave to stand for another 30 mins, then strain as before.

Combine the liquid you get from the 2nd infusion with the liquid you got 1st time round, and discard the hips.

Bring the liquid back to the boil and keep boiling, uncovered, until the amount of liquid reduces by half. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Bring back to the boil for a final time and boil hard for 5 mins.

Pour into warm, sterilised jars or bottles, and seal.

The syrup should be kept in a fridge once cool, and will last for 1 month. It freezes very well, and lasts indefinitely in the freezer. Just pour the cooled syrup into plastic bottles (no more than 3/4 full to allow for expansion) and freeze.

Makes approx 1ltr. Adapted from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.