Skip to main content


he is something magical about the rowan tree (sometimes called the mountain ash). The way it changes the colour of it’s leaves in stages, the dense inflorescences of the flower heads and the subsequent startlingly bright bunches (or corymbs) of fruit. It is, without a doubt, one of the most popular trees of folklore, with many names – mountain ash, ruan, witch wood, Rudha-an (Gaelic for ‘red one’) etc.  The rowan is found all over my native Derbyshire, especially in the Peak District.

The wood is dense and said to be the prefered material for a wizard’s staff (although the author Terry Pratchett says that sapient pearwood is prefered, see the song, ‘A Wizard’s Staff Has A Knob On The End’), and , and divining rods.

Despite the common name ‘mountain ash’, the tree is no relation at all to the ash, Fraxinus excelsior, being a member of the Rosaceae family and thereby related to the hawthorn, apple, pear, quince and cotoneaster. The example you can see here is of Sorbus aucuparia, the European rowan, and is standing outside my relatives’ home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

The fruit of the rowan is a favourite of many birds such as various members of the thrush family, and the waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus. Since the berries contain high levels of parasorbic acid, a bitter chemical which can be harmful to humans (it can cause kidney damage), they are best not eaten raw. However, they can be eaten quite safely after cooking, (the heat alters the parasorbic acid to non-toxic sorbic acid) and are usually made into a tart jelly (for meats) or in a jam or chutney along with other fruit.

During World War Two, Britain was under severe rationing restrictions due to a lack of shipping and losses to German U-Boats. A Ministry of Food was established, which controlled rationed foods, and gave out information to aid those preparing it. In a 1941 ‘Food Fact’ leaflet they sang the praises of the rowanberry, “Rowanberry conserve is a great favourite in Scotland. It is rather like cranberry. The berries make a preserve with a pleasant tang, admirable to serve with cold meats. You can make the preserve of the berries alone, or with a couple of apples to each pound of berries.”

The leaflet carefully did NOT explain WHERE said 'cold meats' where to come from, as at this stage of the war, the adult ration of 'bacon and ham' PER WEEK was 4 OUNCES! The other meat available was to cost no more than around 10/15 CENTS (at wartime exchange rates).

Originally posted to shortfinals on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 06:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site