Rowan: Growing, Health Benefits, Cooking


Even a city resident can identify a rowan correctly. Its bright orange-red fruits are not only a source of beauty, hope, and poetic inspiration but also have healing properties. In earlier times, rowan trees, planted outside houses, were believed to keep out witches and evil and bring happiness and peace to the family.

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Rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia), also known as mountain ash, are beautiful all year round, with their white blossoms in spring, summer green foliage, yellow-red leaves in fall, and bright berries in winter. In the Baltic states, they grow in deciduous, coniferous, mixed forests, clearings, and woodlands, as well as in gardens, homesteads, parks, and along roadsides. When the fruits are ripe, I occasionally eat them. The tree belongs to the rose family; its fruits have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses.

The rowan grows tall
passed over by all
it forms
here in the open wilds
the perfection of a child's
painting of a tree
untested by tragedy. – Mandy Haggith, Rowan.

Sorbus aucuparia
Rowan fruits and leaves

Growing Rowan

For gardeners looking to add more personality to their yard, ornamental, deciduous rowan trees are a great option. They look great all year round and are perfect for small gardens that lack space for traditional trees. Due to the seeds' high germination rate, some experts advise starting the tree from them. That typically works until you realize that growing a tree from seed requires a lot of time and patience, not to mention that the tree won't bear fruit for the first few years after planting.

When the young rowan has gone dormant in late fall, it is an ideal time for planting. Make sure you have enough space to grow your rowan because it can reach a height of 15 meters (49 feet) and live for more than 50 years. Either full sun or some shade should be present in the location. If you're using pots or other containers, you can plant it whenever you want throughout the year, except in summer.

After you dig a hole (it should be three times wider than the root ball), place the young tree roots there, fill it with soil, and water it well. The ground around the tree can be fertilized with a granulated all-purpose feed and then mulched with several centimeters or a few inches of well-rotted compost or bark chips. Once planted, rowans require very little maintenance: soil with an acid to alkaline pH and adequate moisture as their roots cannot tolerate dry soil.

Rowan Fruit Health Benefits

Rowan fruits are a natural immune booster due to their high vitamin content, particularly vitamin C. An infusion of dried fruits helps prevent colds, flu, and vitamin deficiency. They also have a high percentage of flavonoids – powerful antioxidants that protect the body's cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which cause premature aging and cell mutation.

Note: Before trying any herbal treatments, get the OK from your doctor or a professional herbalist.

Cooking with Rowan Fruits

Fresh rowan fruits taste bitter and rarely get eaten, but their liqueurs, wines, jams, and kvasses are very popular. You can reduce the bitterness of the fruits by freezing or harvesting them after the first frost.

Rowan Jam Rowan Kvass
1 kilogram of fruit; 1 kilogram of sugar; 0.5 liters of water 1 kilogram of fruit; 2 cups of sugar; 4 liters of water; 10 grams of yeast
Rinse rowan fruits without stalks and allow them to dry slightly. In a 100% ceramic, glass, or enamel-coated cast iron pot over low heat, combine water and sugar with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves; immerse fruits in the syrup, bring to a boil, and then remove it from the stove; allow 6 hours of covered cooling. Return to low heat for 20 minutes; skim off any excess foam. Keep it cool in sterile jars. Bon appétit! Rinse rowan fruits without stalks and place in a glass bottle; add sugar and boiling water; cool to 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit); dilute yeast with warm water and add to the bottle; cork tightly and store in a cool place for five to six days. Add sugar or honey to taste in a well-infused and partially fermented beverage. Your kvass is now ready to use. Cheers!

In August, the fruit turns red, but it is usually only harvested after the first frost in October

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Do you make jam or kvass from rowan fruits? Does your backyard have a rowan tree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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