Hawthorn Harvest Time

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The little seedlings that arrived from the Arbor Day Foundation over a decade ago have matured. In the past few days birds have been sampling some of the fruits that have just turned from green to red. Cardinal, blue jay, mockingbird, cedar waxwing, and wren are what I’ve seen eating haws. When the trees first produced fruits a few years ago, I searched for uses of the fruits. I found recipes for jelly and wine and also a medicinal use. Hawthorns have a long history of use as beneficial to the heart and circulatory system. Hawthorn supplements are available and are sometimes recommended and prescribed by physicians.

The seeds of Hawthorn contain cyanide, so best to avoid ingesting any especially if they have been ground. Last year, I followed a recipe for hawthorn wine from a person who liked it enough to say it was worth making again. I made a gallon, but it isn’t something I will try again. There is nothing wrong with the wine, just a very bland flavor. I’ve used some for cooking and plan to try a mulled wine, adding fruits and spices.

For jelly, hawthorn provides natural pectin and nice color. Pectin level is higher when less ripe, so harvesting as soon as the berries turn color would be ideal. Right now would be the time for my Chattanooga hawthorns. But since their is little flavor in the haws, I would recommend using them for a mint or pepper jelly.

Last year I gathered haws with two friends who use them for making tinctures. We tried hand picking and using a stick to shake the branches and collect those that fell onto a blanket. The day they came, hand picking worked better as the fruits were still well connected to the tree. Two weeks later, I tried the stick and blanket method again and got good results. When hand picking, care must be taken to avoid the thorns. They can be nasty.

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Those heart healthy little fruits with high vitamin C are protected by very real thorns. Below is what I do with the berries I gather.

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They go into kombucha tea. As the specific gravity of the brew changes the berries move from the bottom to the top. The photo on the right shows the color change between the berries in the strainer that were boiled and steeped in the tea for a week and the dried berries before using. I have no idea how much of the antioxidant flavanoids that benefit the heart and vitamin C I am extracting. I’m quite sure that I get a good bit less as a percentage of body weight than the birds that consume the berries from the tree. And when a liquid is in the ph range around 3.2 as my tea ends up, harmful microbes cannot survive.

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