Summers on Cape Cod are to be held close. The soft sands, the beach food, the salt-kissed breezes. Time spent there makes my heart pine for early morning beach walks and lazy days spent reading in a low slung sand chair with my feet in the water. It's also a time to seek out wild beach plums.
The wild beach plum grows on a gnarly shrub in sand dunes between Maine and Maryland. Each fruit is about the size of a grape. These small orbs when cooked down have a velvety, sweet taste that produces an elegant jelly that New Englanders seek out. I'm certainly no different. However, before you set out to harvest your crop its best to know a bit more. You see I set out one morning large bowl in hand to harvest for jelly. After 90 minutes I arrived back at the cottage only to have my brother say, "You know, Aunt Lana says those aren't beach plums. They are rose hips." "Really, I just got all prickly for rose hips?" said the very disappointed city girl. I knew this was too easy.
Off we went to the West Dennis library to determine exactly what I had picked. After inquiries with the librarian and a look at pictures of both fruits and the final conclusive fact--the growing season (late August through mid-October)--it was final, rose hips.
Rose hips develop after the bloom of a rose fades as it is the seed pod of the plant. There are wild roses in every state but Hawaii. Before we all go clamoring be forewarned that preparing and cleaning rose hips is very time consuming as you need to remove the stem and calyx, and their are hairy seeds and small hairs around the pits. As they are a hard fruit it should be cooked prior to eating which is why their use is typically in the form of tea or jelly which is a bit tangy. During World War II, when fresh fruit was hard to come by, British mothers boiled the fruit with sugar and water and served it to their children.
I will need to wait until another vacation for my homemade beach plum jelly. Instead I paid a visit to the Chatham Jam & Jelly Shop for a jar of Cape Cod Wild Beach Plum jelly, one lives and learn!
Read on for a Swedish recipe for Rose Hip Soup.
Rose Hip Soup
365 Vegetarian Soups, by Gregg R. Gillespie, 2002
8 oz. dried rose hips, soaked 4 hours
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup dried potato flakes
4 tblspns Madeira wine
12 blanched almonds, shredded
1 tspn lemon juice
1 tblspn sugar
Soak rose hops in just enough water to cover them for 4 hours. In a Dutch oven combine the rose hips and soaking water. Simmer over a low heat until the rose hips are soft.
Press through a fine sieve, discard the vegetable matter, and return the liquid to the pot. Add the stock, potato flakes, wine, almonds, juice and sugar.
Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.