Yes, you heard me right – fuchsia jam! Many of us grow fuchsias in our gardens, but did you know that from the flowers to the berries, every part of the fuchsia is edible? You can add the flowers to salads or use them to decorate cakes, but the berries are a revelation and full of vitamin C. However, some varieties have better tasting berries than others with flavours from sweet or peppery, to downright disappointing. One variety is even sometimes marketed as the ‘edible fuchsia’, Fuchsia splendens, through all varieties are non-toxic and can be eaten.
Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about fuchsias, a genus of about 105 species of flowering shrubs and trees with many varieties and hybrids. They are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America to New Zealand and Tahiti and are named after the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566).
They were brought to Britain in the eighteenth century where they soon became popular in gardens and greenhouses. Most fuchsias are not frost hardy and here they have to be grown under glass or in pots that can be taken into the greenhouse in the winter, though the Fuchsia magellanica is hardy outdoors and is naturalised in several places. You can even see it in hedgerows in some locations.
As usual with imported plants, Europeans soon sought to connect it with Christian lore, claiming that the fuchsia sprang from the blood of Christ dripping to the foot of the cross, and its pendant flowers dangle because it hangs its head from sorrow. In both Britain and Ireland its folk names include Lady’s Eardrops/Earrings and God’s Teardrops.
A favourite pastime of children used to be making a lady or flower fairy from fuchsia flowers by trimming the petals and stamens to make a skirt and legs, sometimes with a twig for the arms. They would also suck the sweet nectar from the flowers. However, in both Britain and Ireland it was considered unlucky to bring the flowers into the house.
The fuchsia is also used in traditional medicine. In Transylvania, the fresh leaves are applied to wounds and skin inflammations, while in South America the flowers are used on bites, scratches and grazes and the berry juice to relieve itching and redness of the skin, inflamed blisters and sunburn.  In Māori traditional medicine, the tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) is used as a vapour bath after childbirth. Research has shown that fuchsias are high in anthocyanins which are strong antioxidants.
You’ve been patient long enough – here’s the jam recipe:
Fuchsia Berry Jam
680 gram ripe fuchsia berries
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely (for the pectin)
450 gram sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Over a low heat, melt the sugar in the water and lemon juice. Add the berries and apple, bring to the boil and maintain a rolling boil until you reach the setting point. Pour into warmed, sterilised glass jars and seal.
© Anna Franklin, September 2020