The mountainous geography of Azerbaijan is enriched by a dense forest area where there are many wild species of great ecological and food value. Rosehip is a perennial bush plants belonging to the genus Rosa in the Rosaceae family, which grows spontaneously in the alluvial plain of the Girdimanchay river and in the riparian forests of the district of Ismayilli, in the north-eastern part of the country. The genus Rosa includes numerous specie: more than 300 are registered worldwide, of which 42 can be found in Azerbaijan.
The cultural and gastronomic link with these species depends on the great capacity and attention of the rural populations who have been able to grasp the peculiarities of the rosehip (also called dogrose) both for the fruit consumption and for the other parts of the plant, especially the flowers. A high washout power belongs to the wild rosehip, used to prepare decoctions that benefit renal activity.
Caucasian wild rosehip plants grow wild up to 2 meters as bush and need no management during their life, which can last 20, 25 years. The flowers, both light and dark pink in color with a fragrant texture, blossom around mid-may. The fruits are rather small red berries of an oval form. The pulp has a very high content of vitamin C, which increases during maturation, but it cannot be eaten raw due to the presence of tiny hairs. Harvesting starts in autumn, in late September – beginning of October, and it is scalar. The plants are located in state-owned forests and there is no title of ownership. The harvesters do not use invasive techniques because they know that it is a fundamental source of sustenance for the benefit of the entire community: they must respect the health of the plants and the preservation of the mountain and forest landscape.
Traditionally, the families process the Caucasian wild rosehips in syrup, compote and jam. For the production of syrup (itburnu nektari in local language), the full ripen fruits are cleaned and blanched for about 25 minutes. After 3-4 hours of resting, the pulp is crushed and filtered. Sugar (about 60%) is then added to the juice, together with a glass of water and put into cooking until the proper concentration is reached (it normally takes 10-15 minutes).
The compote has a similar production process, with the exclusion of the concentration step, as the beverage presents less thick and less sweet. Due to the progressive maturation, this beverage is prepared at different times over a couple of months from the beginning of the harvest, as there are no qualitative differences. Rosehip petals are dedicated for jams production, widely used locally and traditionally to prevent heart disease. The petals are collected during the most intense flowering period in late spring. The flowers are placed in containers, where a small amount of sugar is added to facilitate conservation. These containers are then left exposed to the hot sun for about forty days. After the fermentation process occurred, the product is ready to consume.
Wild rosehips products are used as table desserts to accompany Azerbaijani tea and as a remedy for weakness and heart problems. The jam is a key ingredient for Azerbaijani sweets that are prepared during holidays and festival celebrations.
The Presidium will work on one side to better the visibility and communication of the products, and on the other side to on the marking strategy, in order to reach new selling channels than the ones at a very local level. The main pillar of the production protocol signed by producers establishes the full adherence to the traditional production techniques of harvesting and processing.
District of Ismayilli, north-east of Azerbaijan.
EU-financed project COVCHEG
Producers’ Presidium Coordinator