Harvesting Hawthorn Berries – Hawthorn is fairly easy to identify and harvest – I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the easiest plants to grow because it’s so distinctive and grows in abundance in most parts of the world. Like all wild plants, hawthorn must be harvested with care and respect, and there are a number of foraging basics you should follow. According to George Symonds in his excellent book, The Book of Tree Identification: A New Method for Practical Tree Identification and Recognition, there are over 1,000 species and subspecies of hawthorn berries in North America alone – this is not true. includes all species from Europe, Asia, Africa and the rest of the world.
Family, hawthorn is related to both roses and apples, as well as many other edibles, including cherries, peaches, dogwood, and mountain ash. Hawthorn is full of natural compounds, nutrients, minerals and trace elements that make it an incredibly valuable medicinal plant. It is the oldest known medicinal herb, appearing in records from around the world as far back as the first century, and is gaining popularity among mainstream practitioners even today.
Harvesting Hawthorn Berries
It is mainly used for heart ailments, but it is also used for digestive complaints, as an immune booster, anti-inflammatory and general tonic, as well as for some mental illnesses and skin problems. You can learn more about the health benefits of hawthorn here. Berries (another name for berries) have a mild apple flavor and make a delicious jam, jelly, pie filling and ketchup substitute. Hawthorn also has a huge amount of folklore associated with it, including the belief that it is a fairy tree.
Impressive Health Benefits Of Hawthorn Berry
First, don’t just focus on harvesting native species. Most hawthorns, even if not truly native, have been naturalized over hundreds if not thousands of years. For me, if I’m sure it’s hawthorn, it’s growing vigorously and producing lots of healthy leaves, flowers and berries, I eat it.
Hawthorn leaves are small, deeply lobed and about as wide as they are long. Leaves, as a rule, appear before the first flowering. Hawthorn blooms in early or mid-spring and is commonly known as Mayflower. During flowering, the tree (or bush) displays a huge number of small white (or pale pink) flowers. Hawthorn flowers appear in round bunches at the ends of the branches. Each flower has five calyx lobes, one carpel and twenty stamens.
The fruits ripen in late summer to late autumn and vary in color, shape and size from orange-yellow to dark red. The shape varies from round to oblong or pear-shaped. The flesh of the fruit is dry and floury, like the inside of a rose hip. Hawthorns are commonly used as hedge bushes, but also grow as trees up to 12 meters tall, although three to six meters are more common.
Outside of hedgerows, you’ll find them in woodlands and as solitary trees in fields and meadows. In some places they are commonly used as park and roadside trees.
Hawthorn Berry Homemade Cordial
Because of the high risk of pollutants and chemical absorption, I avoid foraging in trees located near roads.
Warning: As the name suggests, hawthorn, also known as whitethorn or burdock, has sharp spines along the branches, which makes it so valuable as a hedge plant because they create a dense, prickly wall that is not easily penetrated.
The length and point of the spines vary among species, but can reach more than three inches. They are slender, strong and extremely sharp, so they can cause significant painful injuries if you are not careful when harvesting.
Now that you’re sure the tree you’re looking at is a hawthorn, it’s time to harvest. If using leaves, harvest them from mid-spring to early fall – this is when they are at their healthiest and contain the most nutrients. Later, when the leaves begin to turn, they lose their strength.
Late Harvest Treat: Haw Jelly
Collect the flowers in clusters in mid to late spring when they are fully developed. For a very early harvest, you can also take the buds before they bloom.
The berries, or ridges, ripen from early to late fall, depending on your location and tree species. Once they are fully ripe, remove the hawthorn berries from the branches, being careful to avoid the sharp thorns.
Remember, when picking hawthorn berries or anything else, never take more than half of what’s available. You are just a small part of a larger ecosystem, and you share nature’s bounty with other creatures, from insects to birds to small mammals. It’s a delicate balance, so don’t be greedy.
Also, of course, taking no more than half is best foraging practice, as it ensures that the plants will continue to thrive and spread for generations. If you recklessly and negligently deplete these natural resources, they will disappear in just a few years, leaving nothing for future generations. So always be respectful when harvesting.
Enjoy A Native Berry Producer Each Winter
Always be careful when harvesting hawthorn because of its sharp thorns, and be careful if you have children with you, as the tree can cause nasty injuries, especially to small ones.
Other than that, nothing special – if you’re careful not to get caught on the thorns, harvesting hawthorn is easy.
I prefer to use hawthorn fresh whenever possible, whether for medicinal purposes or in baked goods. However, this is not always possible, plus I want to have a supply to see me through the winter months. So, the easiest way is to rinse and freeze your stock. You can also dehydrate the berries and leaves, but I find the flowers too delicate for my dehydrator.
One of the main uses of hawthorn is as a tincture, as it has many healing properties. It’s also surprisingly easy. Learn how to make hawthorn tincture with and without alcohol here. Harvesting hawthorn berries is new to me this year. They are sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in years past I tasted them too early in the fall. This year the Washington hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by then the one-seeded hawthorn had started to rot, so next year I’ll look for them in mid-October.
Hawthorn: Foraging And Using
I credit Josh Fecteau’s recent post on hawthorn with inspiring me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many species of hawthorn, maybe 50 in New England. And in all of North America, perhaps a thousand species, according to George Symonds (from his excellent book, The Tree Identification Book: A New Method for Practical Tree Identification and Recognition).
My favorite tree ID study guide). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify a specific species. You only need to know that it is 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 hawthorn? They are beautiful, interesting and delicious wild edibles with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I haven’t tried that yet. You can use berries, leaves and flowers to make tea. Scroll down to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
I will describe two types here to demonstrate the general characteristics. This should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but I do
A Cup Of Hot Hawthorn Tea Made From Freshly Picked Berries, Herbal Medicine For Heart Health On Wooden Background. The Hawthorn Stock Image
If you are unsure if you have hawthorn when foraging, please check additional sources until you are sure before eating the berries.
It grows in the form of a small tree or a large bush, at the end of spring it blooms with white flowers. Berries turn red in September (here), but sweeten later. By October 31st, they were sweet and may have peaked a bit. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
The leaves are lobed and toothed as you can see in my photo above. Many other types of hawthorn have similar leaves. The tree is armed with long spines, up to about 3 inches in length. However, with reasonable care, you can easily pick the berries that tend to hang from the branches. Later in the season it will be even easier when many of the leaves have fallen and are no longer covering the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, it is a European native that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It’s sometimes called an invasive plant, but I don’t see it often, and when I do, it’s not that many in one area. It may be invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly aggressive here. Similar to 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 serrated leaves are more lobed than those of the Washington hawthorn, but the spines are much smaller,