I have volunteered in the gardens team at the Museum since 2011, working for Carlotta, the Museum’s Head Gardener. I love the variety of the role and enjoy being outside – it really is the perfect active retirement project.
Our tasks vary throughout the year but recently we’ve been harvesting for the winter, collecting blackberries, sloes and apples to go into cold storage. In the next week or two, medlars and Warden pears will also be ready and collected. It is an exciting time of year, I enjoy seeing how much has grown and watching the seasons shift to autumn.
Sadly this year we have no hazelnuts as the mice or squirrels got there first! Likewise the peas and beans, which would have been used in the Tudor home or Poplar Cottage, have been nibbled away. This is such a shame for us after all the planning work and tending to the gardens, but for the original inhabitants of Poplar Cottage, this would have been a disaster for them going into the leaner winter months.
This year has been particularly good for certain berries such as elderberries and also for squashes and pumpkins. When picked and stored well, they can last for some time. Over the next few weeks we will also be harvesting and drying herbs including lavender, rosemary, marjoram, wormwood and tansy. All have different uses – culinary, medicinal, insecticides and as dye plants. There are so many different ways that food can be preserved and this was a crucial task for rural communities living in the past.
On 1-2 October there will be a special Historic Life Weekend at the Museum focusing on preserving and preparing for the winter.
If you’d be interested in volunteering at the Museum, you can find out more here.
Rose Hip Syrup (By Christina Stapley, Medical Herbalist and Author)
Once a daily supplement for almost all babies and toddlers, rose hip tastes delicious and is high in vitamin C.
900g ripe rose hips
Gather the rose hips from your garden or a hedgerow well away from traffic fumes. Put 1.7 litres (3 pints) of water in a large pan on the stove to heat. Bring to the boil. Wash the hips, discarding any imperfect ones. Chop by hand, or in a blender, and drop them straight into the pan of boiling water. Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil. Set it aside to cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour through a fine straining bag into a jug. Hang the bag up to drip for a few minutes or squeeze gently if not too hot. Return the pulp to the pan and add 900ml of water. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Leave to stand for 10 minutes. Strain, putting the first cupful back to drip through a second time. Combine the two liquids in a pan and simmer until the quantity is reduced to 900ml. Add the sugar and dissolve this in over a gentle heat. Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Have 6-8 glass bottles ready which have been sterilised and are warm. Pour the syrup in while still hot. Seal and label. Refrigerate once open.