Monday, 8 August 2011

Rowan Berry Jam

Since moving from the middle of a city, where the only trees tended to be in parks surrounded by drunks, to the (almost) countryside where hills, fields and woodland are all but a short walk from my front door, I've been gripped with the urge to find out more about what is growing in the hedgerows and on the trees I walk past most days.  And more importantly - can I eat any of it?

After picking Bilberries and turning them into jams and crumbles, and seeing that the healthy crops of brambles won't be ready for another couple of weeks yet (although many plants are already laden with ripe fruits - I think we are in for a bumper harvest this year!) I turned my attention elsewhere.

Rowan trees - why do they remind me of something from Farmville?...
Rowan trees seemed to be everywhere, and they are pretty eye catching - looking like the kind of tree a child would draw if you gave them some brightly coloured crayons.  The big clumps of red and orange berries are extremely attractive.  Surely they must be edible?  With the voice of parents and teachers warning against eating any berries of dubious provenance, I checked a few books and web-sites and found that yes, Rowan berries are edible, and can be made into jam.

So off we went, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, to gather the berries, and hopefully some crab apples too, for the jam.  As you can see from the pictures, Rowan trees are pretty easy to identify, with their 5-10 pairs of leaves per branch, and obviously the bright berries

...Or make me think of Christmas?
 Rowan berries are very bitter, but have a high vitamin C content, so if you eat them raw, they can taste pretty awful.  However, the bitterness is often less when the trees are cultivated (because of their pretty berries, they are used a lot as decorative trees) and after the first frost.  To counter the bitterness, you can freeze the berries before cooking them.

As if to prove just how much free food is available if you look hard enough, only a few hundred meters away from where we picked the rowan berries, we also found a wild apple tree with its branches straining under the weight of the small and very tart apples, which are perfect for jam-making

After picking about a kilo of apples and rowan berries, we headed home  to prepare the jam.  Sitting and picking the the berries off the stalk is a bit of a time consuming chore but it needs to be done, then they are washed and frozen over night to reduce the bitterness

Looks good enough to eat!
Once this is done, it's time to make the jam.  You can scale up the quantities as you like.

 Rowan Berry Jam


500g Rowan Berries
500g Apples (Chopped finely)
500g Sugar


Put the chopped apples and washed berries in a large, thick bottomed pan with just enough water to cover them.  Boil this mixture until the berries and fruit go soft - the rowan berries will lose their lovely rich colour at this point, but don't worry.

Once the fruit is soft, transfer the mixture into a metal sieve and then press it through the sieve into a bowl with the back of a large metal spoon.  This will remove all the seeds, skin and apple core, leaving just a soft orange pulp.  Discard the rough left-overs.

In another pan, heat the sugar with a little bit of water.  When the sugar starts to boil, add the fruit pulp, then bring back to a rolling boil and allow to boil for about 5 minutes.  Check for consistency using a plate that has been kept in the freezer - drop some of the jam mixture onto the plate, and if when you push it around the plate it forms jammy ridges that don't run then you know the jam ready.

Transfer the jam to sterilized jars and store until needed.

The jam has a slightly bitter taste and goes well with game, lamb, cold meats and cheese.  I will post a version of the recipe that makes clear jelly instead of jam later.



  1. The colour of this preserve is truly beautiful!! Hope you and yours are safe in England:)

  2. I think I have seen these berries before in Norway but I never knew they were edible (or could be made into jam!) Awesome, thanks for sharing! :)

  3. They are quite bitter if you eat them raw, and there are lots of trees about everywhere it seems. Possibly because they are so nice to look at, they get planted as ornamental plants. Also, they look exactly like a lot of berries my mother told me never to eat!

  4. We made some the other day - goes great with lamb!

  5. Oh hello! Yours looks amazing! I've been making some, as my son is called Rowan and the berries are from his grandad's tree, yet it tastes awful! I found your blog as I was looking for possible solutions to fix it, I guess I'll just try again! ;)

  6. I think it's the freezing that stops them from being bitter, either that or waiting until after the first frost to pick them! Hope it works out okay for you. You could always make a clear jelly instead of a jam with them as well. That worked nicely for me!

  7. Where can one buy Rowanberry jam? Please send responses to:

  8. Raw Rowan berries are poisonous, don't atempt to eat them unless cooked!