Toba Hawthorn Berries And Bears – Harvesting hawthorn berries is a new one for me this year. They are sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in recent years I have been tasting them too early in the fall. This year, Washington hawthorn was mild and mild in late October. But by then, the one-seeded hawthorn was starting to rot, so next year I’ll look for those in mid-October.
I owe credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post, which inspired me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many species of hawthorn, perhaps 50 in New England. And, in all of North America, perhaps a thousand species, according to George Symonds (from his excellent book Tree Identification Book: A New Method of Practical Tree Identification and Identification
Toba Hawthorn Berries And Bears
, my favorite guide for learning ID trees). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify certain 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. Keep an eye on yourself; just spit out the seeds.
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Why bother with hawthorn? 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 be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I’m making hawthorn berry extract.
I am going to describe two species here, to illustrate the general characteristics. That should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but i
F if you are not sure that you have hawthorn when foraging, please check with additional sources until you are sure, before eating the berries.
This grows as a small tree or large shrub, with clusters of white flowers in late spring. The berries turn red in September (here), but are sweetened later. By October 31, they were sweet, and maybe a little past their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
Are Hawthorn Berries Edible?
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 thorns, up to about 3 inches long. However, with reasonable caution, you can easily harvest the berries, which tend to hang from the branch. It is even easier in the season after many of the leaves have fallen and the thorns are no longer hidden.
Also known as the hawthorn, this is a European native that escaped exploitation and naturalized in North America. It’s sometimes branded as an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very often, and when I do see it, there’s not much of it in one area. It may be invasive 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, bearing clusters of white flowers in late spring. The oval red berries ripen slightly earlier (than the Washington hawthorn) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply toothed than those of Washington hawthorn, but the thorns are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch to an inch long.
Hawthorns are common in the forest understory here in Massachusetts, but they are hawthorn specimens that do not produce well. It’s too shady in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorn, look in sunny spots, such as fields of bushes and shrubs, at the edges of meadows, and along streams. They are often planted as ornaments, so if your friend has one and you don’t mind picking some berries, you have an easy foraging experience at your fingertips.
This is my first experience using hawthorn berries, and I am using them to make extract, using the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use hawthorn extract as a seasoning 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 cap on the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to get enough flavor out of the berries, so I’ll be checking daily. I know other extracts, (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I expect here. Results of four different species of Crataegus (clockwise from top left: C. coccinea, C. punctata, C. ambigua and C. dughlasii)
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The Mayflower, or hawthorn, is made up of hundreds of species of shrubs and trees in the Rosaceae family,
Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America. The name “hawthorn” was originally applied to the species native to northern Europe, particularly the hawthorn C. monogyna, and the unchanged name is often used in Britain and Ireland. The name is now applied to the base gus and the related Asian Rhaphiolepis gus.
The geric epithet, Crataegus, is derived from the Greek kratos “strong” because of the great strgth of the wood and akis “sharp”, which refers to the thorns of some species.
The name haw, originally an Old Glacial term for a hedge (from the Anglo-Saxon term hunghorn, “a fce with thorns”),
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With small pome fruits and (usually) spiny branches. The most common type of bark is smooth gray in young, developing shallow longitudinal fissures with narrow ridges in older trees. Thorns are small, sharp branches that arise from other branches or from the trunk, and are typically 1–3 cm (1⁄2–1 in) long (recorded as up to).
). The leaves grow spirally arranged on long shoots, and in clusters on spur shoots on the branches or twigs. The leaves of most species have a lobed or serrated margin and are somewhat variable in shape. The fruit, sometimes called “hawk”, is similar to a berry but structurally a pome containing from one to five pears that resemble the “stones” of plums, peaches, etc., which are drupaceous fruits in the same subfamily.
The number of species in the gus depends on taxonomic interpretation. Some botanists have recognized 1000 or more species in the past,
The gus probably first appeared in the Eoce, and the ancestral area is probably Eastern North America and Europe, which remained closely connected at that time due to the North Atlantic Land Bridge. The earliest known leaves of the gus are from the Eoce of North America, and the earliest leaves from Europe come from the Oligoce.
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Hawthorn provides food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, and the flowers are important to many nectar-feeding insects. Hawthorns are also used as food plants by the larvae of a large number of Lepidoptera species, such as the small egg moth, E. lanestris. Hawthorn is important for winter wildlife, especially thrushes and waxwings; these birds eat the hedgerows and spread the seeds in their droppings.
The “haws” or fruits of the common hawthorn, C. monogyna, are edible. In the UK, they are sometimes used to make homemade jelly or wine.
The leaves are edible, and if picked in the spring while they are still young, they are sharper for use in salads.
The young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible in the countryside, are called “bread and cheese”.
Crataegus (thorn Or May Tree)
In the southern United States, the fruits of three native species combined are called mayhaws and are made into jellies that are considered a delicacy. The Kutai people of northwestern North America used red and black hawthorn fruits for food.
On Manitoulin Island, Ontario, several species of red fruits are known as hawthorn. During colonization, European settlers ate these fruits during the winter as the only remaining food supply. People born on the island are now called “haweaters”.
The fruits of Crataegus mexicana are called tejocotes in Mexico and are eaten raw, cooked, or in jam during the winter. They are stuffed into the brok piñatas during the traditional pre-Christmas celebration called Las Posadas. They are also cooked with other fruits to prepare Christmas punch. The mixture of tejocote paste, sugar, and chili powder produces a popular Mexican candy called rielitos, which is manufactured by various brands.
The 4 cm fruits of the species Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorn) are tart, bright red, and resemble small crabapple fruits. They are used to make many types of Chinese snacks, including hawthorn flakes and being coated in sugar syrup and placed on a tanghulu stick. The fruit, known as 山楂 shān zhā in Chinese, is also used to produce jams, jellies, juices, alcoholic beverages, and other beverages; these could later be used in other dishes (for example, many older recipes for Cantonese sweet and sour sauce add shānzhā jam). In South Korea, the fruit is made into a drink called sansachun (산사춘).
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In Iran, the fruits of Crataegus (including Crataegus azarolus var. aronia, as well as other species) are called zâlzâlak and are eaten raw as a snack, or made into a jam called the same name.
A meta-analysis of previous studies by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2008 concluded that there is evidence of “significant appropriateness in symptom control and physiological outcomes” for