Rowan or Mountain Ash – Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses


Rowan or Mountain Ash is an ancient tree used since ancient times.

The berries provide a variety of wild edible delights and offer a range of uses in medicine.

Scientific Name

Sorbus aucuparia.

Family

Rosaceae.

Botanical Description

The bark of this small shrubby tree is smooth, shiny and greyish coloured.

The stem and branches are slender with pinnate leaves that are dark green on the upper side and bluish green on the underside with toothed margins.

The tree yields scented white-petalled flowers in umbrella-like clusters. The berry-like fruit are scarlet, turning from green to yellow to orange-red as they mature.

Status

Native to Britain, Europe, Asia Minor, Caucasus and Western Siberia; introduced to North America and New Zealand.

Habitat and Distribution

It prefers rocky places, glens and mountain riversides; also grown as an ornamental tree of parks and gardens.

Parts Used For Food

Largely berries, but the bark, twigs, buds, flowers, leaves and sap are also edible. See cautions below.

Harvest Time

A deciduous tree, fruiting August to November.
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Food Uses of Rowan or Mountain Ash

The berries can be used to make jams, jellies, conserves, marmalades, vinegars, wines, spirits, confectionary, ketchups, pies and soups. REF

However, the raw berries have a bitter taste unless you know how to pick and prepare them.

The bitter, astringent taste is said to be improved after frost, which helps make the fruit sweeter. REF

In Estonia, between the 18th–21st centuries, almost all parts of the rowan tree have been used as a wild edible, including the bark, twigs, buds, flowers, leaves, sap and fruit. REF

Nutritional Profile of Rowan or Mountain Ash

The berries contain vitamins A and C, as well as other substances like pectin, malic acid and tannins. Candied rowan berries contain 30–40 mg of vitamin C. REF

In fact, it was once used to treat scurvy and we now know that the tree’s berries contain high amounts of vitamin C. REF

Recipes for Rowan or Mountain Ash

Herbal Medicine Uses of Rowan or Mountain Ash

Since ancient times, the berries have been prescribed for stomach disorders or for bleeding. REF

The leaves were also used to make remedies for sore eyes, rheumatism, asthma and colds. REF, REF

The berries and the bark are astringent which may support these uses of the tree.

Other Uses

The wood is hard and elastic, and has had many commercial uses in woodcraft from making baskets and cart wheels to kitchen utensils and crates.

Cautions

The berries may irritate the stomach if taken in excess, while other sources warn that the seeds may be toxic and cause poisoning. REF

There is little information about the safety of the tree during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, and so rowan is best avoided at these times.


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