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The fruit of the rose in winter

Foraged from Baltimore rose hips, a soup that's sweet and loaded with Vitamin C

rose hip soup

Two soups: left, made from Ekstrom’s dried soup mix and, right, what I made from neighborhood rosehips. Serve with cookies!

Photo by: Marta Hanson

When you bill yourself as “The Baltimore Urban Forager,” you get some pretty strange gifts, such as the present I received from my mom this Christmas – a box of rosehip soup mix made in Sweden.

“Just add 4 cups of cold water,” the Ekströms’ soup box explained, “and let stand before serving. For a warm dessert, heat in a microwave or stovetop.”

And so I was introduced to Swedish Nyponsoppa and, of course, inspired to trying gathering some local Baltimore rose hips and making some soup myself.

Fatter and Brighter is Best

Fortunately, despite the snow we’ve already had, there are still plenty of rosehips to forage throughout Baltimore to make one’s own hippy soup. Because of the popularity of ornamental rosebushes and vines, in fact, there is perhaps no edible fruit as plentiful in cities as the humble hip or “fruit of the rose.”

Since rosehips get sweeter and softer after the first freeze, now is even the best time to harvest them.

 A bright spot for foragers in mid-winter: rosehips. (Photo by Marta Hanson)

A bright spot for foragers in mid-winter: rosehips. (Photo by Marta Hanson)

Rich in vitamin C, as well as a good source of vitamin A, B, essential fatty acids and antioxidant flavonoids, rosehips are one of the best things one can consume during the winter. For northern regions, such as Scandinavia, they were an important source of vitamin C just half a century ago before global food markets circulated citrus fruits all year round.

Rose hips may be abundant in yards across the city but, of course, be sure to ask before harvesting from any rosebushes on private property. Cultivate relationships with your neighbors who haven’t yet thought of harvesting their hips. You’ll have a nice treat to share with them!

Which to pick? The larger, fattier, orange-to-red colored rosehips are the best. If they have already started to get spots and blacken, they are rotting and no longer good. The ones that are hard and green did not sufficiently ripen for harvesting. Large particularly red rosehips come from the Dog Rose  (Rosa canina).

A Family Tradition – of Using the Mix!

I’d been hoping a little checking with my Swedish ethnic side would reveal that some of them had made their own soup from hand-picked hips.

Turns out, all use Ekström’s ready-made Nyponsoppa! My aunt Anki (who lives in northeast Sweden on the Baltic coast in the small town Soderham) remembers that her mother Gerd made homemade Nyponsoppa. But that’s about it.

This unusual fruit soup mix appears to be available only in Swedish specialty shops, along with blueberry soup. It’s also available on some online sites, such as “Viking Foods.”

The original rosehip soup mix from Sweden.

The original rosehip soup mix from Sweden.

The recipe I decided to use for my foraged Baltimore version (included below) comes from Swedish Recipes: Old and New (American Daughters of Sweden, Chicago, 1955).

Comparing the finished products, the Ekströms’ light-orange version was less sweet – more like, well, rosehips. It was thinner than the purplish-red more substantial soup that resulted from the recipe.

The Ekströms was refreshing drunk without anything else. My foraged dish was delicious as a cool dessert with whipped cream and almond shavings. Think of the former as a refreshing Vitamin C rich health drink and the latter as an intriguing winter dessert soup.

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NYPONSOPPA SWEDISH ROSEHIP SOUP

Ingredients (4 servings)
1 cup dried rose hips
4 cups cold water
1/3 cup sugar (less if desired)
1 Tbsp. potato flour
Optional: 1/8 cup Madeira wine

For topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream
some silvered almonds per bowl

Preparation
Soak the rose hips in half the water for a few hours. Then boil them soft in the same water. This may take 20–30 minutes depending on their thickness. They should be soft and sticky. Blend in a mixer and pass through a sieve. Throw out the roughage. Boil the rest of the water. Stir potato flour into a little cold water. Beat the mixture into the water and boil again. Add the mashed rose hips and sugar. Taste and let cool.

Although the recipe suggests serving it with whipped cream and almond slivers, my aunt Anki recommends serving it with vanilla ice cream and cookies.

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OLD-WORLD ROSEHIP JAM

From Preserving Wild Foods: A Modern Forager’s Recipes for Curing, Canning, Smoking, and Pickling (pp. 79-80). This is the great cookbook my mother gave to me along with the package of Nyponsoppa.

1 ¼ pounds rose hips (stems removed), halved
3 black cardamom pods, split open (3 whole cloves is a good substitute)
1 pound sugar (about 2 ½ cups)
¼ cup grenadine
splash of rose water

 

Preparation

  • Put a small ceramic plate in the freezer for testing later the consistency of the jam.
  • Cover the hips with water abd bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the hips breakdown and are soft and sticky, about 30 minutes.
  • Pour into a course-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, press the mixture through the strainer. Discard any large pieces that are still in the strainer. Transfer the pulp to a medium heavy-bottomed pot and add the cardamom, sugar, and grenadine.
  • Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar melts evenly until it’s a medium-bodied syrup. Once all of the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until slow-rising gelling bubbles pop at the surface, 20-30 minutes.
  • Now remove the plate from the freezer and drop a tablespoon of the hot mixture onto it. Tilt the plate. The mixture should hold the drop without running. If it doesn’t, cook the mixture for a few more minutes.
  • When it’s the correct consistency, turn of the heat and stir in the ¼ cup rose water.
  • Set out four sterilized 8-ounce jars. Keep the lids and bands in a saucepan of barely simmering water, while dividing the compote among the still-warm jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
  • Process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Then savor one lovely jar at a time for the rest of the year!

 

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