Freeze Hawthorn Berries To Preserve – Hawthorn berry harvesting is new to me this year. They’re sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in years past I’ve been tasting them very early in the fall. This year, Washington Hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by that time, the single-seeded hawthorn started to rot, so next year I’ll see in mid-October.
I give some credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post, which inspired me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh noted, there are probably 50 hawthorn species in New England. and, in North America, perhaps a thousand species, according to George Symonds (in his brilliant book Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees
Freeze Hawthorn Berries To Preserve
, my favorite guide to learning Tree ID). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify specific species. You 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 spitting out the seeds.
Freeze Dried Pitted Organic Whole Hawthorn Berry
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 it. Fruits, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
I describe two species here to illustrate common characteristics. It helps you recognize Hawthorne when you see it, but I
If you are unsure whether you have hawthorn while foraging, check with additional sources until you are sure before eating the berries.
It grows as a small tree or large shrub and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. Fruits turn red in September (here), but then sweeten. By October 31st, they will be sweet and perhaps peaked a bit. Each berry contains 3-5 seeds.
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As you can see in my photo above the leaves are lobed and toothed. Many other hawthorn species have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long spines about 3 inches long. However, with reasonable care, you can easily harvest the fruit, which hangs away from the branch. It’s even easier later in the season after many leaves have fallen and are no longer obscuring the thorns.
Also known as common hawthorn, it is a European native that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It is sometimes branded as an invasive plant, but I don’t see it very often, and when I do, it’s not often in one area. Maybe it’s aggressive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem particularly aggressive 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 fruits ripen slightly earlier in the fall (than Washington hawthorn) and contain a single seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply lobed than Washington hawthorn, but the thorns are much smaller, only 1/2 inch to an inch long.
Hawthorns are common on the forest floor here in Massachusetts, but they are scrawny specimens that don’t fruit well. It is very shady in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorns, look for sunny spots such as shrubs and bushes at meadow edges and along streams. They are often planted ornamentally, so if your friend has one and you don’t mind picking some fruit, you have an easy food experience at your fingertips.
This is my first experience using hawthorn berries and I am using them to make extract, with the same process you 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 sealed the jar. I’m not sure how long it takes to extract enough flavor from the fruit, so I check it daily. I know other extracts, (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so I’m just waiting here.