Ingredient Spotlight: Rowan Berries

While traveling through Minnesota the past couple of weeks, we've spotted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these brilliant red berry clusters in yards and parks. As avid foragers, our first thought was, "Are they edible?!"

As it turns out, yes ... but you probably don't want to plop a raw berry in your mouth. We discovered that they are quite astringent! However, we also learned that rowan, or mountain ash, berries have long been used to make preserves, sauces, wine, and liqueur.

There are several species of rowan from the Sorbus americana in North America to the Sorbus aucuparia of Europe; both of these have edible berries but the European variety is said to be more palatable. The berries ripen in late summer to early autumn and foragers often wait to pick them after the first frost, which sweetens the berries (one can also put the berries in the freezer for a similar effect). High in pectin, the berries apparently make a good jelly, and they can also be stewed into a sauce similar to cranberry sauce.

Do you have any experience with rowan berries?

More information and recipes:
American mountain ash and European mountain ash (USDA Plants Profile)
Rowanberry Jelly (Sparkling Ink)
Rowanberry Wine (The Guardian)
Rowan Schnapps (Danish Schnapps Recipes)

Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Chokecherries

(Image: Emily Ho)

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Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade