Food under your nose

We have a back garden. It is a quite reasonable size—not loaded with Lord Lucan-concealing potential, but not a postage stamp either—and I can usually cut the grass in about an hour if the (usually) six-inch turf isn’t concealing anything unpleasant. It has a seat down the end which I expect to fall apart from disuse sometime in the next year or two, and a couple of hyperactive rosebushes which tend to grow all over the place as we’re not quite sure what to do with them. (Hold that thought.) Overall,, though, we feel our garden is fine for our purposes.

And now to go off on a brief but ultimately relevant tangent.

A few years back, BBC Four showed a season of programmes entitled The Lost Decade 1945-1955, centred around the first ten years in the UK after the Second World War. The programme which has stuck in my mind, looked at what Britons ate in this period, when the UK’s economy was effectively bankrupt from the effort of winning the war and the debt incurred through it.

In essence, people in Britain relied far less on imported food than we do now, partly due to the continuation of wartime rationing, but also to some extent because the nation simply couldn’t afford it. This led to all sorts of efforts to ensure that Britons kept up their nutrition levels, and one offshoot of this was that our grandparents were much more knowledgeable and resourceful when it came to exploiting the food that was all around them: on the trees and in the hedgerows.

But that’s as maybe: what does it have to do with our garden?

Cast your mind back a few paragraphs to the mention of rosebushes. I have one in mind in particular: it currently sprawls over a good area of our garden path, and I know that sometime I’ll have to prune it back quite drastically (hopefully without killing it).

The connection to the BBC Four programme? Quite simply: rosehips. Or, to be more precise: lots of them—big orange and red teardrops of juicy goodness, presumably hoping we won’t let them wither on the branch the way we’ve done the past five autumns.

Apparently, weight for weight, rosehips contain more vitamin C than oranges or other citrus fruits, so during World War Two Britons made lots of rosehip syrup and rosehip jelly, as citrus fruits were well-nigh impossible to come by due to German submarine attacks on shipping convoys. Since the 1950s, however, we have not felt the need so acutely to make the most of wild food sources around us, although concerns about “food miles” have been growing more recently (not to mention awareness of how 60 million inhabitants of the UK could be fed without imports, but that’s another story).

I have thought more than once that we could make more effective use of our garden than we do—perhaps to try growing some herbs or simple vegetables—but a combination of lack of knowledge of where to start, doubts about the garden’s suitability, lack of time and, yes, pure and simple bone-idleness, have usually applied the brakes to that idea.

However, as I have to cut back the rosebush anyway, and there must be a good crop of fruit ready and waiting on the soon-to-be-pared-back branches, perhaps this is the “easy win” we’ve been waiting for all this time. If this actually comes to anything, I’ll be sure to let you know—keep an eye on my Twitter feed for the latest on all things myself-ish.

But in the meantime, here’s one blog post about rosehip jelly and jam (via Simply Recipes) to whet your appetite…

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