Hawthorn Berries When Ripe – Hawthorn berry picking is new to me this year. They are sweet and delicate if you take them at the right time, and in years past I was tasting them too early in the fall. This year, Washington hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by that point, the single-seeded hawthorn was starting to rot, so next year I’ll be looking for those in mid-October.
I owe some credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent post on hawthorn, which inspired me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many species of hawthorn, perhaps 50 in New England. And, across North America, perhaps a thousand species, according to George Symonds (from his wonderful book Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees
Hawthorn Berries When Ripe
, my favorite guide to learning tree ID). Fortunately, it is not necessary to be able to identify particular species. You just have 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.
Hawthorn Bush Ripe
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. Berries, leaves and flowers can all be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I’m making hawthorn berry extract.
I will describe two species here, to exemplify the general characteristics. This should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but me
If you are unsure if you have a hawthorn when 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. Berries turn red in September (here), but sweeten later. By October 31 they were sweet and maybe slightly over the peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
Fresh Ripe Yellow Image & Photo (free Trial)
The leaves are lobed and toothed, as you can see in my photo above. Many other hawthorn species have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long spines, up to about 3 inches long. However, with reasonable caution, you can easily pick the berries, which tend to hang from the branch. It is even easier later in the season, after many leaves have fallen and no longer obscure the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, it is a European native that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It is sometimes labeled as an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very often and when I see it, there isn’t much of it in one area. It may be invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t appear to be 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 berries ripen a little earlier (compared to Washington hawthorn) in the fall and contain only one seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply lobed than those of Washington hawthorn, but the spines are much smaller, only 1/2 inch to one inch long.
Hawthorns are common in the forest undergrowth here in Massachusetts, but they are lean specimens that don’t bear fruit well. It is too shady in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorns, look in sunny places, such as shrub fields and thickets, at the edges of pastures and along streams. They are often planted as ornamental, so if your friend has one and you don’t mind picking a few berries, you have an easy foraging experience on hand.
This is my first experience with hawthorn berries and I am using them to make an extract, with the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use hawthorn extract as a condiment in cooking and baking. I filled a clean jar about 3/4 full with berries, covered them with 80 degree vodka and capped the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to get enough flavor out of the berries, so I’ll check it every day. I know other extracts (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I expect here. October / November, after the first frost, it is also the time to pick the hawthorn berries. Hawthorn is relatively unused as a hedge berry, mainly used for hawthorn gin or hawthorn brandy. It can also be used to make jam or jelly. Hawthorn gin is much tastier than sloe gin. It is not so sweet and syrupy, in fact it tastes more like a fortified wine like dry sherry than a liqueur. It is worth maturing. The hawthorn gin produced now will be perfect next Christmas. If you think you can’t wait that long, double the amount: some to drink young this year and others to mature for the next. Do a lot anyway because it’s so much more appetizing!
Green Hawthorn Delivers A Brilliant Show Of Berries
Sort, top and tail the berries. This takes a long time and not the end of the world if you don’t, however it will result in sediments that are difficult to filter out later and compromise the clarity of your gin. Place the berries in a preserving jar, sprinkling a little sugar between the layers. Once you reach the top of the jar (leaving some room to allow for stirring), fill with cheap gin (supermarket own brand is fine). Seal and put in a cupboard. Every few days or so, shake the jar.
After 4 weeks the berries will have lost their color and the gin will have taken on a shade of pink. (If you leave it longer before straining, the flavor will intensify. However, a muddy sediment is more likely to form. If you have fleshy, bright berries you can leave the gin to steep for several months, but if the berries are tough. and discolored is enough one month.) Once filtered, filter in the bottle and mature for at least another three months. Have fun in moderation!
Hawthorn also has a history as an herb used by herbalists to treat high blood pressure. It is also beneficial for the heart as it has vasorelaxing properties and is very rich in bioflavonoids, even for your heart. This is well supported by research. (If your blood pressure is already high and you are taking medications, you shouldn’t just stop taking it. But, along with a consultation with a medical herbalist, you may be able to reduce your drug addiction.) taking hawthorn berry is like a tincture. A tincture is basically the herb (in this case the hawthorn berry) soaked (soaked) in alcohol to form a tincture. So basically hawthorn gin is a form of tincture. And a small snack taken regularly, like the old country days, can help keep the heart and circulation healthy. A tea made from the leaves or berries is also a healthy way to keep blood pressure low, especially when paired with linden flowers and leaves.