11th September 2020

Featured / Outdoors / Natasha Lloyd

September Forage of the Month: Rowan berries [sorbus aucuparia]

10 2.5 mins 0

NNatasha Lloyd, our resident Medicinal Herbalist, is based in Scotland close to Glen Dye Cabins and Cottages. Natasha has an abundance of knowledge of plants and their properties. Since easing out of lockdown she has been busy back with her workshops and guided walks where she shares her expertise to amateur botanists. This month, September 2020, Natasha features the rowan tree, who’s bright red berries are in season now.

The rowan tree (also known as mountain ash) has a rich history of folklore, mostly to do with warding off evil. Rowan trees are often found growing near houses, where it was credited for protection, keeping witchcraft and ghosts at bay. A small piece of the plant -sometimes shaped into a cross- was put above the front door to advert evil. The berries were also used and distilled to create a protective charm spirit.

The rowan or mountain ash looks similar to the elder tree though is distinguishable through its leaves. The rowan tree has small leaflets on each leaf, between seven and nine on each side. The elder leaflets are bigger and fewer in number, between five and seven on each side. The flowers on the rowan tree also appear earlier than the elder.

Now is the season for rowan berries; the small fruits that first appear in late Summer turn from green to a bright red in early September, signifying their ripeness.

Rowan berries contain a significant amount of vitamin C; however, they must be frozen or boiled to make them safely edible. In their raw state, they contain parasorbic acid which can damage your kidneys if eaten in excess over time and will make you feel nauseous. The parasorbic acid is broken down into sorbic acid after freezing or boiling. Sorbic acid is really good for you, it has been shown to prevent the breakdown of collagen in the skin, keeping your skin healthy and youthful.

The berries are easily harvested by hand. A lot like elderflower and elderberry you just take the whole frond of berries. As always with foraging wild foods, leave enough for the birds and other animals and insects. The berries are out and are good to harvest until the first frost, then the birds will devour them. They seem to strip the berries almost overnight.

Here are some of my favourite recipes for rowan berries:

Pickled Rowan Berries


Rowan Berry Jelly


Rowan Wine

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Natasha Lloyd

Natasha Lloyd is a Medical Herbalist and Forager, based in the heart of Cairngorm National Park in Scotland. Natasha has been teaching foraging and herbalism for over 15 years through guided walks, talks and workshops.

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