Hips…make some wartime syrup!..

A quick sketch of some rose hips. It’s “research” for a nice little job to draw 9 medicinal plants for the labels of a lovely range of herbal products.
The first one is the rose… whose “hips” have been used for many and varied medicinal remedies over the years and are edible too. It seems that Rosa rugosa hips are the preferred ones for eating.
Rose hips are packed with vitamin C and allegedly can help lots of things.. from coughs and colds to rheumatics and digestive problems. So in these frugal times hedgerows can help keep us healthy and the wild rose bushes here are laden with these pretty fruit.

Here is some wartime advice:

ROSEHIP SYRUP The recipe distributed by The British Ministry of Food 1943: ‘The Hedgerow Harvest’

2 pounds (900gm) of hips: Boil 3 pints of boiling water. Mince hips in a course mincer and put immediately into the boiling water. Bring to boil and then place aside for 15 minutes.
Pour into a flannel or linen jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through. Return the residue to the saucepan add 1½ pints of boiling water stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip. To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.
Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 1½ pints (852ml) then add 1¼ (560gm) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes. Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once

Source: The Hedgerow Harvest, MoF, 1943 via Woman’s Hour.. where else ! 🙂  Another nice old quote, whose provenance I cannot find, says this:

‘Children with great delight eat the berries thereof when they are ripe and make chains and other pretty geegaws of the fruit; cookes and gentlewomen make tarts and suchlike dishes for pleasure.’

This not-so-gentle woman is still contemplating her haul of damsons and windfall apples but thinks this year she really should give rose hips a go! Mother would be proud!

rose hips bg

Rose hips from Grafham

I only had to walk a few yards to find bushes laden with hips.
The bushes have a graceful arching habit and ferocious thorns.
Our kitchen window was reflected in the glossy surface ..will report back on syrup progress!

Leaf of the Day: Australian Tea Tree

After Friday’s miserable weather, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, far too nice to be slaving over a drawing board and we spent most of the day outside. Today was equally beautiful too and we walked for about 6 miles along the Econ Greenway for which I was rewarded with aching legs but a few nice Ear Tree pods, see previous post here.
But today’s leaf is from the wonderful Australian Tea Tree, Melaleuca Alternifolia, which is both pretty and useful. I walk past this modest little tree every time I go to Leu Gardens. It grows just by the path on the way down to the lake. I have to admit it is one tree I have put off drawing because the leaves are tiny and numerous but having written about the soapberry and its antibacterial properties, this seemed a natural follow on.

It is pretty and delicate with small needle like leaves growing the length of long swaying branches. In the summer it has correspondingly tiny white flowers and now the delightful seed capsules which are tiny too. This elegant branch has been in the fridge for a couple of days but if you crush the leaves you still get the gorgeous camphor like scent.
The beautiful flaking pale bark serves to protect the tree against fires because although it smolders, it seldom burns and so insulates the interior of the trunk from severe damage.

This is of course the Tea Oil Tree, native to New South Wales, Australia, which gives us the valuable and potent tea tree oil. If you google “tea tree oil” you get 395,000 hits and I don’t have time to plough through even half of them for this post. Suffice to say it is well known as a powerful natural topical medicine, the oils containing a cocktail of antibacterial, anti fungal and antiseptic chemicals. It was well known for centuries to the Aborigines in Australia who used an infusion of the crushed leaves as an inhalant to treat colds and for skin conditions and leaves would be sprinkled directly onto wounds. The commercial production of the oils was started in the 1920’s in Australia and like the soapberry, Tea Tree oil has been useful for the military as an addition to first aid kits in World War 2 and more recently as a treatment for soldiers in Iraq to help treat leishmaniasis, a disease caused by the bites of sand fleas.
Its most powerful action seems to be anti fungal , so useful for all manner of fungal infections. It can be found in beauty products, dental products, as treatments for head lice and insect bites, flu and colds, acne, MRSA, ringworm, athletes foot, dandruff, warts, and eczema. You can freshen up your home and get rid of musty pet and feet smells with spray made up with a few drops of oil in water.

Like all these things caution is advised! It is strong medicine and should not to be swallowed and usually should be diluted somewhat. There are some very good tips to make your own products on the Web and here is a simple page of uses which seem quite sensible and it isn’t selling anything. Go here.

I will be adding it to my Soapberry Suds liquid and I am going to try to make some shampoo too. I will report back.
Because of the small scale leaves they also make nice bonsai!

Images from the Australian Plant Index here

There is another melaleuca, Melaleuca quinquenervia a relative of the Tea Tree, which was introduced to South Florida in the early 1900s to dry up the wetlands but, like many other introduced species, it seems to have run amok in its new home and taken over vast areas of the Evergaldes and is now another on the pest list. They are locally known as punk trees due to the punky texture of the bark. This is a new use of the word “punk” to me, a Brit. I think it means corky or spongy. I am sure someone will let me know.

Now dried up sprig and tiny seeds of the tea tree.

My drawing today is a section of branch, about 15 inches long and a much enlarged version of the tiny seed capsules. They are like little cups with a crenelated edge and the seeds are held in the central reservoir. They are minute and spilled all over my paper as I was drawing them. There seems to be absolutely no correlation in nature between the size of the seed and the size of the plant/tree it grows into. I wonder why? The seeds of this tree are like tiny specs of dust, it is estimated that a kilogram (2.2 pounds) has two and a half million seeds. I think I need to try that bonsai..progress report in about 5 years.

The Australian Tea Tree