What Can I Do With Hawthorn Berries – October/November, after the first frosts, is also the time to pick hawthorn berries. Hawthorn is rarely used as a hedge berry, mainly used for hawthorn gin or hawthorn brandy. You can also make jam or jelly from it. Hawthorn gin is much nicer than thorn gin. It’s not that sweet and syrupy, in fact it’s more like a fortified wine like a dry sherry than a liqueur. It is worth making time. A hawthorn gin made now will be perfect for next Christmas. If you don’t think you can wait that long, then make a double batch – some to be drunk young this year and some to mature next year. Do a lot anyway, because it’s so much more!
Sort the berries, top and stem. If you don’t, it will take quite a while and it’s not the end of the world – it will, however, create a sediment that will be difficult to filter later, and it will reduce the clarity of your gin. Put the berries in canning jars, sprinkling a little sugar between the layers. Once you’ve reached the top of the can (leaving some wiggle room), fill with cheap gin (supermarket own brand will do). Seal and put in the cupboard. Shake the jar every few days or so.
What Can I Do With Hawthorn Berries
After 4 weeks, the berries will lose their color and the gin will take on a shade of pink. (If you leave it longer before straining, the flavor will intensify. However, you’re more likely to get a slimy sediment. If you have bright, plump berries, you can leave the gin to macerate for a few months, but if the berries are hard and discolored, a month is enough.) After strain, filter into bottles and bake for at least three months. Enjoy in moderation!
Hawthorn Berries Crataegus Pinnatifida Organic Dried Fruit
Hawthorn also has a history as an herb used by herbalists to treat high blood pressure. It is also good for the heart as it has vaso-relaxing properties and is very high in bioflavonoids – also good for the heart. This is confirmed by research. (If your blood pressure is already high and you’re taking medication, you shouldn’t just stop taking it. But in conjunction with a consultation with an herbalist, you may be able to reduce your dependence on the medication.) The best way to take hawthorn berry is as a tincture. A tincture is basically an herb (in this case hawthorn berries) that has been macerated (soaked) in alcohol to make the tincture. So basically hawthorn gin is a form of tincture. And a regular small bite, like in the old country days, can help keep the heart and blood circulation healthy. Tea made from the leaves or berries is also a healthy way to maintain low blood pressure, especially when combined with linden flowers and leaves. Hawthorn picking is new to me this year. They are sweet and mild when you get them at the right time, and in years past I tried them too early in the fall. This year the Washington hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by then the single-seeded hawthorns have started to rot, so next year I’ll be looking for them in mid-October.
I owe some credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post for inspiring 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, The Book of Tree Identification: 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 worry about 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 it yet. You can use berries, leaves and flowers to make tea. Scroll down the page to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
How Healthy Is Hawthorn?
I am going to describe two species here to show the common characteristics. This should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but I do
If you are not sure if you have hawthorn while foraging, check additional sources until you KNOW before eating the berries.
It grows in the form of a small tree or a large bush, with white flowers in late spring. Berries turn red in September (here), but sweeten later. By Oct. 31, 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 species of hawthorn have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long spines, up to about 3 inches in length. However, with reasonable care, the berries, which tend to hang from the branches, can be easily harvested. It’s even easier later in the season when many of the leaves have fallen and are no longer hiding the thorns.
With A Friend Like Hawthorn
Hawthorn, also called common hawthorn, is a European native that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It’s sometimes called an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very 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. Like Washington hawthorn, single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree and produces 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 toothed leaves are more lobed than Washington hawthorn, but the spines 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 scrawny specimens that don’t bear fruit well. It’s too shady in the forest. To find fruit-rich hawthorn, look for sunny spots such as brushy fields and thickets, along pasture edges and along streams. They are often planted as ornamentals, so if your friend has berries and doesn’t mind you picking them, you’ll have an easy foraging experience at your fingertips.
This is my first experience with hawthorn berries and I use them to make an extract with the same process you would 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, poured 80 proof vodka over them and closed the lid. I’m not sure how long it will take to get enough flavor out of the berries, so I’ll be checking it daily. I know other extracts (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so I’m waiting for that here. By Arianna Lang, BA, MBA and Savannah Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD — Medical Review by Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE, Nutrition — Updated December 13, 2021
These nutrient-rich berries have a tart, tangy flavor and a slight sweetness. Their color is from yellow to dark red (
Hawthorn Berry, Leaf, & Flower
For hundreds of years, people have used hawthorn berries as an herbal remedy for digestive, heart and high blood pressure problems. In fact, the berry has been a key part of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 659 AD (
Antioxidants help neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals, which can harm your body when they are present in high levels.
Free radicals can come from certain foods. You may also have higher levels of them as a result of exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution and cigarette smoke (
Polyphenols are associated with numerous health benefits due to their antioxidant activity, including a lower risk (
Hawthorn Berry Capsules
Although initial animal and cell studies are promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn berries on disease risk.
Summary Hawthorn berries contain plant polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that have been linked to numerous health benefits.
Research has shown that chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (
In a study in mice with liver disease, hawthorn berry extract significantly reduced levels of inflammatory compounds, leading to reduced inflammation and liver damage (
Countryman: Foraging California’s Wild Side: Hawthorn Berry Fruit Leather
In one study, researchers gave vitexin — a compound found in hawthorn leaves — to mice with respiratory disease. This treatment reduced the production of inflammatory molecules and reduced the white blood cell response to inflammation (
These promising results from animal and test-tube studies suggest that the supplement may have anti-inflammatory effects in humans. However, more research is needed.
Summary Hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory potential in in vitro and animal studies. However, studies in