The Hedgerow Harvest

Looking at a 1942 leaflet issued by the Ministry of Food called How to Make Use of the Hedgerow Harvest. It may be 78 years old but the recipes look really good!

Rowan Berries

Rowan Berries

A great crop of berries on the Rowan trees this year.

When I started writing my Dig for Victory book, I spent a lot of time just looking for original source materials. Eventually I gathered what I needed. Some of the guidance leaflets were easy to obtain but others are nearly as rare as hen’s teeth.

Whilst I was searching I kept coming across other interesting things like recipe leaflets issued by the ministry of food. These were issued throughout rationing to help people make the most of what was available. I’ve actually got a couple of similar leaflets from the latter part of World War One which was the first time rationing was ever imposed in Great Britain.

By 1942 things were getting very tough on the Home Front. German u-boats were having a field day sinking our supplies and keeping people well-fed was challenging. We managed but only because we made the most of everything we did have. One leaflet, How to Make Use of the Hedgerow Harvest, covered what you could make from free food growing by the road.

Incidentally, with no private cars because of fuel rationing, the verges were not polluted by traffic to the same degree they would be in the 1960s onwards. This wasn’t just a bit of jolly fun, gathering a few blackberries for a pie. This was survival – a way to add interest and variety to diet becoming more constrained by the week.



Rosehips. I was given some ‘wild’ roses by a neighbour which were just planted and left to their own devices. They’re doing really well.

One recipe is for Rosehip Syrup. During the war children could make themselves some pocket money by collecting rose hips which the government would use to make rosehip syrup. When I was young children were given rosehip syrup as a vitamin supplement. It was lovely but phased out in favour of concentrated orange. A flavour I only slightly preferred to cod liver oil. Our wild roses have produced some lovely large hips this year.

Rowan (Mountain Ash)

Pear tree in the foreground, another Rowan behind.

Looking around, our Rowan’s are heavily laden. It’s been a funny old year so far. Armies of slugs may have wiped out the climbing beans but some things are doing well. There’s a recipe for Rowan Preserve in the leaflet. Rather good with game, but most likely with wild rabbit in 1942.

Rabbit was a very popular meat in the war. For a start there were many more about as myxomatosis had yet to arrive and wipe out 99% of the rabbit population. They were a major pest to farmers and home growers but being edible and not on ration meant they became a country staple. In the towns the government encouraged people to raise rabbits for the table. Unlike chickens, no specific rabbit food was provided on the ration and they were fed on scraps and grass.


The big surprise is the pear tree. Still loaded and looking good! Who knows we may even get plums and damsons one of these years. We live in hope!

Blackberries and Elderberries


Elderberries developing nicely, thank you! Another thriving on neglect crop.

Looking at the blackberries we’re going to having a glut of those and the elderberries are coming along nicely. I planted about ten elderberries a couple of years ago. Some haven’t done much as yet but one is shooting up and bushing out. I’m expecting a decent amount of elderberries to ripen.

In the leaflet there’s a Potted Elderberries recipe that sounds interesting. Apparently, once made it keeps for years. There’s an Elderberry Vinegar recipe described as a country cure for a sore throat that looks worth a try. Elderberry and apple jam sounds worth a go, too. I’ve never had that before.

Yes, we have no apples

I’m a bit disappointed that my Bardsey apple only has one lonely apple despite a promising start. We’ve not even a crab apple providing sour apples and they’re usually reliable as well as tough as old boots. I must see about planting some other varieties in the autumn.


Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
21 comments on “The Hedgerow Harvest
  1. Brenda Temple says:

    One whole pear on our tree for us this year but a plethora of apples after none last year (different trees, obviously).

  2. ally stevenson says:

    Note on the rosehips, when I was at school in the 50s we collected rosehips and got 4 old pennies per pound, I also used to collect blackberries and sell them to the local bakers shop. This year we have a bumper crop of pears and apples, having to watch that the branches dont break with the weight.

  3. Sarah Miles says:

    Can we order copies of these recipes? I wouldn’t mind giving them a go.

  4. russell says:

    Again on rosehips. It must have been mid sixties and onward that I was out with my mother collecting them, which she sold somewhere. I used to love the syrup.

  5. g evans says:

    already picked plumbs, the birds ate all currants, my meddlers are looking good ,but the quince nothing again this year after 10 yrs.

  6. sue taylor says:

    Rosehip collection in Scotland was a big thing for schoolkids in the 60s and became very competitive for the good spots. I was lucky as my father had a car and we used to go further afield to pick berries. The hips were weighed in the headmaster’s office and pennies paid out there.

  7. Jac Wheeler says:

    lots of damsons this year after waiting about 30 years for a decent amount, no apples at all on one tree. potatoes a disaster – was this because we used newly made branch shreddings to cover the tubers after being mixed in with the soil? only one lot of potatoes harvested the rest just disappeared after sending up their leaves.
    good amount of marketmore cucumbers this year, outdoor – some in pots too, First time of growing these. lots of tomatoes as well but cannot grow radish or spring onions and do not know why.

  8. Paul Sumners says:

    Sorry to hear your Bardsey Island apple is low on fruit this year.
    My father-in-law’s 15 yr old at SA44 6QT is having its best year ever. Most branches so loaded with large fruit they are picking early to save the branches.

  9. Tessa Parker says:

    I remember collecting Rosehips in the fifties, and yes some got into making syrup, but never sold for pennies, clearly I was in the wrong part of the country, West Sussex. What I am surprised is that no one has mentioned the other reason for collecting the hip – to use as ‘itchy powder’ to put down an unsuspecting ‘friends’ back, or is it just that no one is owning up to this?

  10. Audrey Watt says:

    I remember at primary school, in the early 60s, having rosehip syrup and semolina for dessert.

  11. Charles Webb says:

    Rosehip, apple and/or blackberry jam – delicious!!

  12. Heather Colley says:

    We used a lot of elderberries back in the late 40s & 50s. Mum used to make apple and elderberry pies, Gran made Elderberry syrup which she used as a medicine to treat winter colds. Stirred into hot water it soothed sore throats and also induced a lot of sweating.
    Elderberry and apple jelly is delicious and avoids those tiresome tiny seeds. It seems that elderberries contain even more antioxidants than blueberries, so I shall be reverting to childhood and picking some this week.

  13. Beulah TAYLOR says:

    Great to hear all the comments! We’ve got lots of apples and plums. We won’t be harvesting until early October. Had a bumper crop of cherries in August. Looking forward to your war-time recipes

  14. Ellen Portess says:

    We harvested what remained of a treeful of pears … the wasps had hollowed out lots of them, leaving the skins on – so we only discovered Jaspers’ deception when we began to pick!
    Only a couple of Coxes and no Bramley apples.
    Plenty of rhubarb and all soft fruits, and leafy but poor runner beans.

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