“Don’t eat random red berries!”
One of my first lessons in wild edibles as a kid. Years later and I have thankfully befriended at at least a few random red berries and confidently enjoyed their fruit.
Hawthorn grows abundantly in Europe, Asian and North America. There are many varieties found just in the Pacific NW region that I call home, and I use most interchangeably. This rose family, shrubby tree often has lobed leaves, serious thorns and flowers that range from deep pink to white.
The leaves and flowers, picked in the spring, make a delicious tea. Come fall is when the fruit ripens. The bright red berries have a very subtle apple flavor, and the variety pictured here has one large center seed inside the fruit. Like many common foods, I think Hawthorn is best enjoyed mixed in with other ingredients and cooked; jams, pies, in apple sauce, tea and more! Unless it’s a survival situation, it can’t hurt to get creative!
BENEFITS OF HAWTHORN
Besides being a fun wild or urban foraged food, Hawthorn is high in antioxidants and may support a healthy cardiovascular system. Like most brightly colored fruit, Hawthorn contains flavonoids and antioxidants which help to fight off free radicals and ease overall inflammation.
Hawthorns affinity for the heart and circulatory system is pretty extraordinary. From known (see citations below) and unknown mechanisms, this herb may benefit and balance high blood pressure, blood sugar and is often used in a long term preventative and/or strengthening herb for the heart and vascular system.
In additional to the anatomical heart, the metaphorical heart can also be deeply nourished by this herb. Hawthorn is subtly relaxing, and has been a gentle herbal ally during grieving and heartbreak. For those experiencing a “heavy” or “tender” heart, try taking Hawthorn (leaf/flower/berry) tea, tincture or syrup daily for at least a week and see if that doesn’t help uplift, relax and brighten your mood a bit. Highly sensitive individuals may be able to feel an affect with smaller doses or even simply sitting with the tree.
HAWTHORN BERRY SYRUP
One of my favorite ways to enjoy Hawthorn is to make it into a syrup that I can use on pancakes and to sweeten tea with.
Water, Hawthorn Berries, Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup, a pot and a measuring cup
Step 1. *Responsibly gather or purchase your Hawthorn Berries
Step 2. Place your fresh or dried berries into a pot of boiling water. For fresh berries use 1 cup of water per 1 cup of berries, and for dried berries use 2 cups of water per cup of berries
Step 3. Simmer the water and berries uncovered for 10 minutes. Gently crush the berries with a fork in the pot as they soften
Step 4. Let this cool slightly and finish crushing the berries in the pot
Step 5. Strain this mix through cheese cloth or a metal strainer. Use a spoon to help get out as much of the pulp as you can
Step 6. To this warm berry liquid, add equal parts sugar, honey or maple syrup and stir. Voila!
Pour into a clean jar, label with the date and refrigerate.
This Hawthorn Syrup should last about three weeks. Add to your favorite foods and beverages and enjoy!
*Responsible foraging means that you learn to accurately identify the plant, the correct plant parts, in the correct season, and use ethical wild crafting practices. If you are in the Portland, OR area we do offer Herb Walks and if not then there may be other herbal and wilderness hands on educational classes in your area!
“Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease”
“Effect of Crataegus Usage in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: An Evidence-Based Approach”