Originating from the Himalayas and areas of South-West China, Himalayan Honeysuckle (Leycesteria Formosa), also known as Himalayan Nutmeg, Flowering Nutmeg, Pheasant Berry and Chocolate Berry, is a very attractive fast growing, white flowered and multi bamboo-like stemmed green leafy shrub. It can grow up to 10 foot tall. From July through to October, dangling clusters of white flowers with red purple bracts give way to edible fruit that mature from green to pink to reddish purple and, finally, deep purple-black.
The fully ripened fruit are faintly figgy in flavour with hints of bitter chocolate and burnt caramel. Increasingly common as a garden plant, it can be found as a garden escape and is becoming naturalized in some areas.
I’ve found this on waste ground and riverbanks from Kent to Wales and as far north as Edinburg. Despite being very tasty the berries do not have a long recorded tradition of use, so go easy at first to test your individual sensitivity.
Berry clusters ripen at different stages. It took me three weeks of return visits to collect the quantity required for this recipe.
Note: eating too many berries, raw cooked or dried can lead to loose stools aka, you know what, so test your sensitivity with a few berries first, slowly increasing to larger quantities if you have no problems.
Makes approx 20 rolls
- Gluten free sweet pastry (makes 13.8 oz/370g):
- 5oz/142g fine rice flour
- 3oz/84g vegetable margarine
- 2oz/28g finely ground almonds
- 1oz/28g light muscovado sugar
- 1 dessert spoon rapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp water
- ½ oz/14g cornflour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp xanthan gum powder
- pinch of salt
- 9 oz/266g dried (but still soft) Himalayan honeysuckle berries
Make pastry by briefly blending all dry ingredients in a food processor.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse blend for approx 10 seconds.
Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
Prepare filling by blending the semidried berries to a paste.
Dust a piece of baking parchment with rice or corn flour.
Bang dough on work surface on all sides to form a fat rectangular shape.
Place on parchment, dust with flour and roll out to form a rectangle 3-4 mm thick (trim to an even shape with knife).
On another piece of parchment form a slightly compressed but essentially thin sausage shaped line of sticky berry filling.
Flip over on to the pastry (leaving a boarder) and carefully ease off with a knife or spoon.
Roll pastry to cover filling by lifting parchment. Seal edges.
Chill for 30 mins. Flip onto a greased baking tray, cut into approx 1”/2.5cm pieces – arranged with sufficient gap between each piece – and bake at 180°c for 10-15 mins in a preheated oven until barely light golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
Note: Xanthan gum powder (used here as a gluten substitute) can be purchased online or at health and gourmet food suppliers. Suma Whole foods is one brand. Anybody living near me can get this at Macknades in Faversham: £6.79 for 100g (a little goes a long way so it lasts ages).
I’ve successfully made these rolls with wild harvested goji berries and wild cherries, as well as with figs, dates and apricots.