Sophia Wilesmith has been foraging the hedgerows of Herefordshire for Hawthorn berries. Find out how you can make delicious jellies and healthy teas…..
Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus oxyacanthoides) are normally collected in September, and October but because of this years warm October, hawthorn berries are still good to pick well into November.
Easy to find, they are abundant in our British hedgerows, fruiting on hawthorn trees. The well known Hawthorn tree can reach the height of 30 feet and has a single seed vessel when it blossoms in May, which produces a separate fruit in the autumn, of vibrant red, much like a miniature stony apple. Also known as ‘haws’, the fruits are edible. The flavour has been compared to that of over ripe apples, with a dry mouth feel, which comes from the tannin in the berry.
Hawthorn berries are known to be the herbs for the heart. They are used to treat low and high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and high cholesterol. According to herbalists they provide one of the best tonic remedies for the heart and circulatory system. David Hoffman attributes them to having a normalising function on the heart. “Hawthorn Berries will move the heart to normal function in a gentle way, either stimulating or depressing its activity, depending on the need.” Although it’s important to note that while they can be helpful in conditions of the heart, qualified attention is essential.
Hawthorn berry virtues include the easing of indigestion, diarrhoea, or stomach pain, and they can be used to treat tapeworm and other intestinal infections. Another asset of the haw berry is its ability to draw out splinters. “If the distilled water be applied to any place pierced with thorns or splinters, it will draw them out,” according to famous 17th Century herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper.
The leaves are edible and if picked in spring, when still young, are delicate enough for use in salads.
The berries can be enjoyed as a tea or a decoction. A decoction is made by simmering the berries in water on a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes, straining off t