Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Rowan Or Mountain Ash – Sorbus Aucuparia.
In years gone by people lived off the land and were use used to
gathering what fruit they could from the hedgerows. Today people still
occasionally pick Blackberries from hedges down the sides of fields and
little else, but there are many other naturally occurring berries, fruit
and nuts that can be eaten that have long been forgotten. Some fruits
were eaten as they were picked, but many were prepared so that they
could be used in the diet of the peasants even though straight from the
tree they were not very palatable and Rowan berries are a case in point.
The berries of the Rowan are not pleasant to eat and have astringent
properties. As such they were sometimes used in olden days to treat mild
cases of diarrhoea, but too many can cause constipation. Rowan berries
can be boiled up and quite safely used to make a jelly or jam. Rowan
jelly used to be a firm favourite of country housewives in earlier
times, but has been almost completely forgotten and is very rarely made
by anybody these days.
There are beliefs and superstitions attached to the Rowan Tree going
back thousands of years and into the realms of the old Religions and
Magic and even the Druids used the Rowans bark and berries to dye
various ceremonial garments. It was believed that a Rowan planted near
to a house gave its inhabitants protection from witches, evil spirits
and the un-dead. The belief was so strong and widespread that they were
even planted in most Church Yards. Consequently, it was always
considered very bad luck to cut down a Rowan tree. Nowadays, of course
we know that it was bad to cut down and burn Rowan wood because it
contains Cyanide compounds.
However, the timber of the Rowan is strong and makes excellent walking
sticks. It is well-suited for carving and was often used for making tool
handles, spindles and spinning wheels.
The native Rowan is a smallish tree that has highly perfumed clusters of
small white flowers followed by numerous bright red berries hanging in
small clumps and as such makes a splendid decorative tree for gardens.
Rowans are also frequently seen in towns and in parks where blackbirds
in particular can be seen gorging themselves on their berries as Winter
Several varieties of Rowans can be bought these days from tree nurseries
including a yellow berried one, and a close relative, the white berried
Sorbus Hupehensis which is sometimes seen. Other close relatives are the
Service Tree, or Sorbus Torminallis and Sorbus Aria, or Whitebeam.
Trees take water and minerals from the soil often exuding unwanted
toxins in their fruit as a means of deterring animals from eating too
much of it and thereby ensuring a wider dispersal of the seeds in the
fruit. It is well known that Almond nuts can contain small trace
quantities of Cyanide if the trees are grown in unsuitable soil. Other
trees such as stoned fruit in general and the Rowan, store unwanted
chemicals in their timber making it slightly toxic to prevent animals
eating them, but it also means that it is not the best of timber to put
through the garden shredder when trees are pruned.