Can Hawthorn Berries Be Frozen – With the fantastic hot weather we’ve had this year in the UK, all signs point to it being a crazy year for many wild fruits.
Freezing edible fruits is the easiest, most convenient and least time-consuming way to store them. Properly frozen fruit will retain much of its fresh flavor and nutritional value.
Can Hawthorn Berries Be Frozen
Like many people, we kids love to search. Foraging is simply looking for and gathering wild food. There are many good reasons for looking.
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Wild foods are far more nutrient-dense than commercially produced crops, and the meals in our hedgerows are what our ancestors evolved to eat, making them essential to our health. Foraging also allows us to learn and pass on our knowledge, as well as providing us with a closer relationship with the nature around us.
Common sense also says that if you clear an area of wild food, you will damage that habitat, so gather only where the food is abundant and only take reasonable amounts.
Only collect and eat wild foods that you are 100% sure you have correctly identified. Be aware of what happens in the area you are harvesting from. Factories near busy roads can absorb emissions from vehicles. If nearby fields are sprayed with pesticides, chances are some will make their way onto wild plants as well. And if watercourses are polluted, your native plants will drink that water.
We are very lucky, as the farmer who owns the fields next to our house is always happy for us to claim his land. I recommend that you still have a jar or bottle of whatever you make, – it’s a great way to build a good relationship!
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I’ve learned over the years that if I wait until I have a few clear days to collect the fruit and process it all, I lose the crop entirely. So now I just grab the fruit when I’m in the mood and put it in the freezer whole until I’m ready to use it.
Freezing foraged fruits is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time-consuming ways to store them. Properly frozen fruit will retain much of its fresh flavor and nutritional value. However, their texture can be somewhat softer than that of fresh fruit, this is because the freezing process damages the structure of the cell wall.
This may seem like a negative factor until you consider what you are more likely to use your forage fruit for. If you look at recipes for winemaking, sloe gin, or rose liqueur, many of them will tell you to pick your fruit after the first frost.
They will tell you that you will get a sweeter, tastier result. In other words, the color and flavor flow more easily into the preserve due to damage to the cell wall. This means you get more out of your fruit.
Red Hawthorn Berries In Winter 2175611 Stock Photo At Vecteezy
By freezing foraged fruits, they are ready for baking, making juices, jellies, hedge sauce, fruit sauce, fruit spirits and wine. With Sloes, that means you don’t have to fiddle with sticking pins in them, and with rose hips, you don’t have to chop them up before making jelly or a potato. Freezing the fruit gives you the luxury of being able to make your steak when you’re ready to make it. If blackberries are available, but you are not… freeze them!
Another advantage of freezing foraged fruit is that you often don’t have enough fruit to make a whole batch of what you plan to make. Not all fruits come into season equally. Freezing the fruit allows you to stockpile until you have enough to make a full batch.
For great ideas on ways to use your foraged fruit, please check out our fruit leather, rosehip and crab apple jelly recipes, and our fruit liqueurs. Harvesting hawthorns is new to me this year. They are sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in past years I tasted them too early in the fall. This year Washington Hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by that time the single-seeded hawthorn had started to rot, so next year I’ll look for them in mid-October.
I have Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post to thank for encouraging me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many hawthorn species, maybe 50 in New England. And, in all of North America, possibly a thousand species, according to George Symonds (from his excellent book Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees
Frozen Pitted Hawthorn Berry
, my favorite guide to learning tree identification). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify specific species. You just need to know it’s a hawthorn, because all hawthorns have edible berries. However, like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide and should not be eaten. Don’t panic; just spit out the seeds.
Why bother with hawthorns? They are beautiful, interesting and tasty wild edibles with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I have yet to try this. The berries, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
I’m going to describe two types here, to describe the general characteristics. It should help you know a hawthorn when you see one, but I
If you are unsure that you have hawthorn when foraging, please check with additional sources until you ARE sure, before eating the berries.
Orange Yellow Hawthorn Berries On A Branch With Green Leaves Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 138607131
It grows as a small tree or large shrub and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The berries turn red in September (here), but are sweet later. By October 31st, they were sweet and maybe a little past their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
The leaves are ragged and toothed as you can see in my photo above. Many other hawthorn species have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long thorns, up to about 3 inches long. However, with reasonable care, you can easily harvest the berries, which tend to hang from the branch. It is even easier later in the season after many of the leaves have fallen and are no longer covering the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, this is a European native that has escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It’s sometimes labeled as an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very often, and when I do see it, it’s not a lot in one area. Maybe it’s invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly invasive here. Like Washington Hawthorn, single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The oval red berries ripen slightly earlier (than Washington Hawthorn) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply lobed than those of the Washington Hawthorn, but the thorns are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch to an inch long.
Hawthorns are common in the forest floor here in Massachusetts, but they are sparse specimens that bear poor fruit. It’s too shady in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorns, look in sunny places, such as scrub and thickets, at pasture edges and along streams. They’re often planted as ornamentals, so if your friend has one and doesn’t mind you picking berries, you’ll have easy foraging at your fingertips.
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This is my first experience using hawthorn berries and I am using them to make an extract, using the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use hawthorn extract as a flavoring in cooking and baking. I filled a clean canning jar about 3/4 full with berries, covered them with 80 proof vodka and put a lid on the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to extract enough flavor from the berries, so I’ll be checking daily. I know other extracts, (such as vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I expect here.