Immune Boosting Berries
As autumn descends and the beautiful scenery changes its décor, we say farewell to the greens and welcome in the fiery reds and oranges. The forest floor gets layered with nature’s litter, the puffballs swell, and the berries blush. It is my favourite time of year; it is such a sensory delight. It is a season of giving and Nature is generous in her offerings. If you go down in the woods today, you’ll likely bump into foragers, excited at the prospect of their next meals.
With the decreasing temperatures winter is around the corner, but to get us smoothly into the chilly months is the season of autumn. It serves as a transition period designed to gives us time to prepare and acclimatise. Well then it is pretty clever and fortuitous that Nature has provided the right tools for us to do this, and just like the squirrels we should be getting into the gathering and stock piling fervour ready for a long hibernation. But modern living does not allow for a winter rest and recuperation, instead we plough on through with the same determination and expect our bodies to follow suit.
However, if you’re one of the many who will not be heading to a comfy sleep zone until spring, it might be wise to let some berries take centre stage in your life right now. Provided free of charge from Nature’s farmacy (deliberate spelling!) are an array of plants and trees heaving with spectacular coloured berries, that hope to offer you immunity and shining winter health. So it is with the idea of foraging for health that brings the humble Elderberry and Rosehip to mind.
The Edible Elderberry
So to keep colds and flus at bay this season stock up on natural vitamin supplementation in the form of elderberries (Sambucus nigra). They taste tart and sweet and as a syrup they are the go-to medicine for a child of any age! Their naturally occurring bioflavonoids help to enhance the absorption of their high vitamin C content. There are also important antioxidants, phosphorus and potassium, and altogether they form a powerful virus-fighting combination. The berries have much the same properties as the flowers, which in themselves can be regarded as a complete medicine cabinet, but the berries bring with them the unique aspect of being a fantastic tonic. It is therefore safe to take as a long term preventative, but also if the bugs strike, and indeed scientific studies show that the humble elderberry kills many kinds of flu viruses.
The Ripe Rosehip
The hips of the wild rose (Rosa canina) will likely taste sweet and sour, with a hint of astringency. But wait!...don’t go picking and popping straight away as the hairs on the inside are an irritant, so some preparation is required beforehand. The purpose of the autumn rosehip is to provide nutrients before the bleak months set in. It is probably most noted for its outstanding amount of vitamin C, in fact more than any citrus fruit, and that sits alongside vitamin A, B, E and K as well as lycopene and bioflavonoids. All in all it’s a treasure trove of healthy goodness; it was even rationed in world war one Britain to increase resistance against infection in children. So if you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen there is much that can be made from the ripe rosehip: jams, jellies, wine, fruit leather, syrup, chutney, ….your imagination is the limit.
A super easy way to use both of these berries is in the...
Immune Boosting Berry Tonic
As part of the commitment to healthy winter immunity, it is important not to consume foods that will undo any of your hard work, and so the recipe below has been chosen for ease and for its complete lack of sugar. Since sugar is the immune system’s kryptonite we won’t be needing any of that in our yummy tonic. The two berries can be sourced from the tree and dried, or alternatively hunt and gather from a local Neal’s Yard shop.
¼ cup organic dried elderberries
¼ cup organic dried rose hips
1 litre filtered water
Bring 1 litre of filtered water to a boil in a saucepan. Add your dried berries, reduce heat to a low setting, and cover with a lid.
Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Strain off the berries, cool and store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Try to drink a little each day. You could even mix it with other teas, smoothies, or beverages if you don't like the taste of the tonic on its own.
Stay healthy this season!