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Hedgerow Berries & their Benefits

We all know that fruits are important throughout winter to keep our immune systems strong & to supply us with a variety of vitamins & nutrients, but which fruits are the most beneficial? It is said that eating local, seasonal foods is better for you, although many people do not understand why.

So, the best fruits throughout winter, here in cold, damp West Sussex are those which have grown in the area, wild or in the garden & have been stored or preserved in various ways that we can consume them through the winter months. All the southern fruits available in the supermarkets are not a necessity & can be more damaging to health throughout our colder months than beneficial.

This is because the stomach is like an adaptive system. It is one of the few bodily systems which has contact with our external environment, along with the skin & lungs. Our bodies are receiving information from the outside world to make constant changes to help us survive optimally in the climate which we are in. From goose bumps due to a cold wind or coughing when stood too near a bonfire… the body reacts to survive. This is the same with food.

Foods signal the body to make changes & react, we need it to react the right way. Many people are no longer exposed to the colder seasons due to central heating, warm cars… they tend to have less connection as to what the body needs. We all know that if we were stood outside feeling cold & someone walked by offering us a fruit salad or a soup, we are unlikely to go for the fruit salad!

Certain foods like bananas, encourage mucus production. This is a necessity for people in hot, dry climates where they grow but not beneficial in a cold, damp one. People prone to chronic congestion, sinus trouble, stubborn chesty coughs that don’t go away should avoid them to prevent excessive mucus production. We do not have the support of the warm climate to digest & assimilate such foods in winter & they can be as detrimental to health for some people, as good. If you feel the cold & have trouble staying warm in winter, eating southern fruits & salads can make matters worse. No matter how many vitamins & nutrients you believe you are getting, your body is adapting to survive in the warm climates in which they grow. If you eat tropical fruits throughout the cooler seasons, your body may never be prepared for the chill of winter & you may be the person wearing two more layers than everyone else!

That’s why local foods are important as they affect our whole fluid metabolism & ability to survive in & adapt to our current surroundings.

We have a great variety of fruits in our hedgerows, Elderberries, Blackberries, Rosehips, Hawthorn berries, Sloes, Damsons… these are some of the fruits which will see you through a healthier winter.

Elderberry – Must be boiled before consumption. Rich in Flavonoids for healthy immune system, regulation of inflammation. Known to help with joint problems affected by cold, damp weather. Available over the counter as Sambucol.

Rosehips – Richer in Vitamin C than any orange & used to strengthen he blood for those with anaemia. An ideal addition as a syrup or added to homemade jams for vegetarians through our colder months. Syrup is good on pancakes, porridge… always use a good quality unrefined sugar when making syrups.

Blackberry – Rich in iron & Vitamin C. This berry really is a superfood for us here & we should eat as many as possible through autumn & winter to keep our blood & immune system strong.

Sloes – Rich in anti-oxidants, free radicals & vitamin C. Great in Gin & traditionally used to soothe the aches & pains of winter. Can also be added to jams/compotes…

Hawthorn berries – Rich in Flavonoids. Good to nibble whilst on a dog walk, beware of the stone, don’t bite down hard! Used to treat conditions like poor circulation, high blood pressure & to strengthen the heart muscle. Can beaded to Sloe gin, jams, syrups… Caution should be taken for those with heart conditions or medicated for high blood pressure.

Damsons – Full of vitamin C & minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, copper, manganese and magnesium. Added to Blackberries & Elderberries as a ‘Winter Tonic Jam’ to keep colds at bay.

There are so many things you can do with our local fruits & they are of great importance when it comes to maintaining health. There are recipes for everything online so get in the hedgerows if you can & make jams, syrups, jellies, crumbles & of course gins!

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