January 09, 2011
Hips and haws
The hairy seeds inside the hip also have their uses, and have been dried and turned into itching powder by generations of schoolchildren. 'Itchy-coos' even found their way into a song by the Small Faces in 1967.
In contrast, haws are the small red berries found on hawthorn trees and hedges, also part of the rose family. They are just about edible as they are, and used to be called 'bread and cheese' - bread being the leaves, the berry being the cheese; more commonly they are used to make jellies and preserves. Birds find them much more palatable than we do, and haws are an important winter food source for many species - particularly thrushes and waxwings, one of our most glamorous winter visitors and one that does appear, from time to time, in London parks and gardens.
Along with the berries of pyracanthas, rowans and cotoneasters - thankfully all common in urban areas - hips and haws help sustain thousands of birds through the hard winter months.