When To Pick Hawthorn Berries – Hawthorn berry picking is new to me this year. They’re sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and over the years I’ve been enjoying them a lot in the fall. This year, Hawthorn Washington was sweet and mild in late October. But at that time, the single-seeded hawthorn began to rot, so next year we will look for those in mid-October.
I owe some credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post, which inspired me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh pointed 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 wonderful book Tree Identification Handbook: A New Approach to Cultural and Tree Identification
When To Pick Hawthorn Berries
, my favorite guide to learning tree identification). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify specific species. You just need to know it’s a hawthorn, because all hawthorns have edible fruit. However, like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide and should not be eaten. Don’t be afraid; just spit out the seeds.
Foraging 101: How To Identify And Harvest Hawthorn
Why bother hawthorns? They are beautiful, interesting, and tasty wild food with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I haven’t tried this yet. Berries, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
I will describe two types here, to illustrate the general characteristics. That will help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but i
If you are not sure if you have an herb when you leaf it, please check with an additional source until you are sure, before eating the fruit.
This grows as a small shrub or tree, and bears white flowers in late spring. The fruits turn red in September (here), but later sweet. By October 31st, they were sweet and may have passed their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
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The leaves are perforated and toothed, as you can see in the picture above. Many other species of hawthorn have similar leaves. The plant is heavily armed with long thorns, up to 3 inches long. However, with reasonable care, you can easily harvest the berries, which seem to hang from the branch. It is even easier late in the season after many of the leaves have fallen and can no longer hide the thorns.
Also known as the common hawthorn, this is a native of Europe that escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. Sometimes they are labeled as attractive trees, but I don’t find them often, when I see them, there are not many of them in one area. It may have invaded other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly aggressive here. Like the Washington hawthorn, the creative hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree, and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The purple fruits ripen a little earlier (compared to Hawthorn Washington) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are much deeper than those of the 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 these are tough specimens that don’t fruit well. It is very quiet in the forest. To find fruit trees, look for sunny areas, such as wooded fields and meadows, edges of pastures, and near streams. It is often planted as an ornamental, so if your friend has one and doesn’t think to pick some berries, you have an easy leaf experience at your fingertips.
This is my first experience using hawthorn seeds, and I am using them to make an extract, the same way you would use to make vanilla extract. I look forward to using hawthorn extract as a flavoring in cooking and baking. I filled a clean canning jar about 3/4 full of berries, covered it with 80 proof vodka, and sealed the jar. I’m not sure how long it takes to extract enough flavor from the berries, so I’ll be checking each day. I know the other stuff, (like vanilla extract) takes weeks, so that’s what I’m expecting here. Autumn or spring planting is best for hawthorn, but, like all trees, the ideal period is always autumn.
The Monthly Herb
Choosing to plant in the fall makes root development before winter, and spring growth will be strong.
Hawthorn is very easy to care for, and requires only a little attention when properly established.
Pruning hawthorn is not necessary unless it is part of a hedge. If it is, you should cut it regularly.
Often used for defensive fences, hawthorn is however more than that, as it has decorative leaves and many flowers, which makes it a very beautiful tree.
Pharm Education: Hawthorn
Both hardy and easy to care for, this plant will also give you satisfaction as it will adapt to the soil and climate where you live.
The leaves take on different colors from spring to autumn, and the beautiful fruits will decorate your hawthorn from the end of summer to the beginning of winter.
Although they are edible, hawthorn berries taste rubbery and itchy when raw, but birds eat them in the wild.
If you need to discourage people from crossing your yard, use hawthorn because its thorns are the real thing!
Harvest Hawthorn Berries For Antioxidant Rich Jam
(all editing by Gaspard Lorthiois): More hawthorn berries (also on social media) by Christel Funk under the Pixabay license Blooming hawthorn by Les Whalley under the Pixabay license Little hawthorn berries by Michaela under the Pixabay license Leaves and berry (also social media) By Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work