Edible Yukon:Hip to the Lingo

Harvesting in the wild often puts me into a contemplative state.

Perhaps it is the repetitive action of the hands – the eyes moving slightly ahead of the fingers seeking out the next berry or leaf. Perhaps it is simply being unplugged from electronic and mechanical sounds.

Whatever the cause, two things occurred to me in one of these moods as I was recently picking rosehips. One was how odd it was to see roses blooming in September, adjacent to blooms that have long since dropped their petals to yield a buxom hip. The second was why are they called “hips” anyway?

Maybe, I thought, the shape of the fruit of the rose reminds some of a woman’s hip.

I searched my brain for relevant tidbits; what is the etymology of the hippopotamus? Hippolyta, wasn’t she an Amazonian queen? By the time I returned home from the rosehip patch near Lake Laberge no stroke of brilliance had occurred, so I called up Google with a mild sense of defeat.

I was wrong on the relation of the word to the body part. The “hip” in “rosehip” is derived from the Old English héopa and the anatomical “hip” from hype, neither of which seem to have any particularly interesting linkages to other modern words. In lieu of exciting linguistic trivia, I can at least pass on the rosehip’s edible and nutritional attributes.

Rosehips are high in bioflavonoids, which support heart health, and high in Vitamin C. I drink long-steeped rosehip tea in the winter to ward off colds. They are also delicious, making excellent jelly, syrup, or my favourite: naturally fermented soda. I like to use them in combination with berries because they have a strong flavour.

The Gwich’in call rosehips Nichih, and suggest that green hips can be picked, boiled and strained, concentrating their pectin – a natural gelling agent – to be used later in making jams and jellies. While I have not used this method, I have mixed juice from ripe hips with berries low in pectin to help make a jam set.

However you use rosehips, I advise against eating the seeds; strain them out, even if you are making jam or fruit leather.

Any northern child will echo my warning – the seeds are covered in tiny hairs that irritate on the way out, and will teach you quickly why rosehips are also called “itchy bums.”


Fermented Soda

Fruit ferments, and this converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In the case of Northern fruit and berries, I have found the alcohol content of the resulting fizzy beverage to be undetectable, but the drink will remained preserved for more than a year when sealed.

Pour 2 L of water over 10 cups of fruit (for example, 5 cups of high bush cranberries, 4 cups of rosehips, 1 cup of blackcurrants) and mash the fruit.

Leave in a warm place covered with a tea towel to keep away flies. The goal is to see bubbles and some activity that tells you fermentation is taking place.

Once this is happening, usually after two to three days, strain out the fruit and pour the juice into narrow mouth jugs or bottles fitted with airlocks (I use 1 gallon cider jars).

Leave to ferment one to two months until you no longer see any air escaping, then bottle in sterilized bottles (ideally with a bale-cap, like a Grolsch beer bottle).

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