Foraging Wild Fruit: Hawthorn

Photo of Hawthorn berries

I enjoy looking closely at details to nail down a positive species-level identification (see my Aster ID post), but sometimes specificity is best left to professional botanists.  According to GoBotany, the Hawthorns (genus Crataegus) comprise "the second largest number of species of any genus of vascular plants in New England" with nearly 50 difficult-to-differentiate kinds. Luckily, sorting them out to the species level is not required to forage them responsibly -- according to Arthur Haines, "their uses are similar (though some species have larger flowers and fruits than others)."*

Prior to this fall, I hadn't encountered many fruit-filled hawthorns, but I happened to notice this planted tree outside the library where I work.  The young leaves, along with the flowers and fruit, are said to be edible and high in antioxidants.  Hawthorns are also well-known heart tonics. The only way I've tried this plant, aside from a few raw fruits, is as an alcohol extraction of purchased dried fruit.  Herbalist Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals shares more about the gifts of Hawthorn in the video below.

*Ancestral Plants (2010), page 70.

4 thoughts on “Foraging Wild Fruit: Hawthorn”

  1. Thanks for this post. I have 2 species of hawthorn growing on my property – one is a Washington hawthorn, the other is one of the non-native ones, I’m pretty sure. The former almost always bears well, and the latter usually does not. The berries of the Washington appeared ripe weeks ago. Year after year I’ve been tasting them right when they appear ripe, at which time they are terrible. After reading your post earlier today, I was inspired to go out and taste them again. Guess what – they are sweet! So many wild fruits seem to just need a few frosts to really taste good. I may make something out of them tomorrow…

  2. I have 4.5 pounds of whole hawthorn berries in my freezer and I am wondering what I can do with them. I was thinking of fermenting them into a wine rather than making a tincture.

    1. I don’t have experience wine making, but it sounds like an interesting idea. Last year, I made hawthorn sauce out of a bunch that I collected. I added a bit of water to the raw fruit and smashed it up really good with my hands. Then I squeezed out the seeds and solids, leaving behind as much of the sauce as possible. (A food mill probably would have worked well). The resulting mixture firmed up after a while in the refrigerator, making a kind of thick fruit jello. Rather bland on its own (which didn’t stop me from eating it), this could also be mixed with other fruits or flavors.

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