Washington Hawthorn Are Berries Poisonous – Hawthorn berry harvest is a new one for me this year. They are sweet and light if you get them at the right time, and in years past I would taste them too early in the fall. This year, Washington Hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by then, the single-seeded hawthorn had started to rot, so next year I’ll look for those in mid-October.
I have 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, maybe 50 in New England. And, in all of North America, possibly 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
Washington Hawthorn Are Berries Poisonous
, my favorite guide to learning tree ID). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify a particular species. You just 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 seed.
Flowering Trees For Missouri
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 haven’t tried that yet. 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 will describe two species here, to explain the general characteristics. This should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but i
If you are not sure that you have hawthorn when you are looking, please check with additional sources until YOU are sure, before you eat the berries.
It grows as a small tree or large shrub, bearing clusters of white flowers in late spring. Berries turn red in September (here), but sweet later. By October 31, they were sweet, and maybe a little past the peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
Edible Berries Archives
The leaves are lobed and toothed, as you can see in my photo above. Many other species of hawthorn have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long thorns, up to about 3 inches in length. However, with reasonable caution, you can easily harvest the berries, which tend to hang away from the branch. It is even easier later in the season after most of the leaves have fallen and are no longer obscuring the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, this is a European native that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It is sometimes labeled as an invasive plant, but I don’t see it very often, and when I do, there isn’t much of it in one area. It may be invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly aggressive here. Like the Washington hawthorn, the single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree, bearing clusters of white blossoms in late spring. The oval red berries ripen a little earlier (than Washington Hawthorn) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The serrated leaves are more deeply lobed than those of Washington Hawthorn, but the spines are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch to an inch in length.
Hawthorns are common in the forest understory here in Massachusetts, but those are scrawny specimens that don’t bear fruit well. It is too shady in the forest. To find hawthorns laden with fruit, look in sunny places, such as shrubby fields and thickets, at the edges of meadows, and along streams. They are often planted as ornamentals, so if your friend has one and doesn’t mind picking some berries, you have an easy foraging experience at your fingertips.
This is my first experience using hawthorn berries, and I’m using them to make an extract, using 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 the berries, covered them with 80 proof vodka, and sealed the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to extract enough flavor from the berries, so I will be checking it daily. I know other extracts, (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so this is what I’m waiting for here.Hawthorn Berries (Hawberries) and Mayhaw (Crataegus). There are many different Hawthorns in North America. Around the world, there are hundreds of them. Most of the Hawthorns you find here are naturalized Hawthorns that came from other parts of the world. Hawthorns are from the same family as Apples and Roses, so it’s no big surprise that the easiest way to describe a Hawthorn in general is that it looks like a smaller apple tree with large thorns and fruit that look like Rose hips or Crabapples. Be careful, the largest of the wooden thorns can be very dangerous – they are hard, sharp and strong and go through the meat with ease. There is also a serious danger from the fruit of this tree – THE SEEDS ARE VERY POISONOUS. Never eat a seed – you have to take this seriously.
Poisonous Red Berries On A Tree Branch Among Green Leaves
Hawthorn has long been used medicinally for heart conditions. It is now believed that Hawthorn may act as a Beta Blocker similar to prescription Beta Blocker drugs. Because of this, you should be careful about eating hawthorn berries if you are on such a drug, as the combined effect may be too strong. Link here to start further research on this topic. I also read that it has now been shown to strengthen the heart, and you see Hawthorn sold in the vitamin section of drugstores and health food stores as a heart tonic. As I understand from my reading, it is the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) that is used for that purpose. Whether or not the other Hawthorns you find in eastern North America have the same medicinal properties is something I cannot confirm or deny from my research.
There is another Hawthorn introduced from Europe which is called Smooth Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). This I have read can be treated and used as if it were the Common Hawthorn as it has the same medicinal properties. However, there has been no proof offered to support this claim, so it’s a bit up in the air as far as I’m concerned. This and the Common Hawthorn also form hybrids. Below in the descriptions under Common Hawthorn is a picture of the hybrid.
I do not know the edibility of fruit from the majority of trees in the Hawthorn Genus. The three trees that make up the group known as the Mayhaws don’t even grow in my area, so my knowledge of them is limited to what I’ve read. Most of my familiarity is with the Common Hawthorn, but even then, I don’t really try to distinguish between the different Hawthorns from an eating perspective. As far as I know, none of the Hawthorns have poisonous fruit (except for the seeds which are very poisonous), but I can’t say if they are all edible. Do research on whatever you find, and experiment with small amounts and see if you like it. I have never met a Hawthorn with fruit that was really good in taste, but they are good to eat, and if properly cooked, not bad in small amounts. Even in the past, they were more or less a food to eat when other crops did poorly, not a food of first choice.
If you are collecting them for medicinal properties, it makes sense to collect them from the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) as it seems unconfirmed that the others have the same properties, or if they do, how strong the medicinal properties are comparable from the different types.
Hawthorn (crataegus Spp.) Leaf Spot
As for cooking with Common Hawthorn (and I’m thinking many others), you need to cook it and cook the very poisonous seeds once they are cooked – the poison remains in the seeds when you are cooking them. You can eat them fresh, but there are few of them, as the stone (one seed in the Common Hawthorn) takes up a good portion of each Hawberry, and besides, the taste is dull – and – some people report that it hurts in the stomach from food. of them raw. I don’t, but I only eat two or three raw at a time, and you might take more. Due to the medicinal effect mentioned above, I also suggest that you only eat small amounts of cooked or fresh Hawthorns at a time. If you’ve read this book to this point, you no doubt know that I try to err on the side of caution.
Basically, after you pick a bunch of them, rub off the ends and stems by rubbing them between your hands, rinse, put in a pot, just cover with water, put about half as much cider vinegar as water (some people say