Autumn abundance & heart health | Learn about Hawthorn berries + A SYRUP RECIPE

“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.

Common names; Hawthorn, May-Tree, Hawberry, Thorn Apple.
Latin Name; Crataegus spp.

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.

SUPPLIES NEEDED

Water, Hawthorn Berries, Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup, a pot and a measuring cup

STEPS

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

Hawthorn Berries

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!

Citations

“Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease”

“Effect of Crataegus Usage in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: An Evidence-Based Approach”

“Hawthorn: For the Heart”


SURVIVAL FOODS | 3 Edible Herbs to Forage

1. Slippery Elm Bark

While tree bark may seem like the least appealing option, various tree barks have been staple in traditional diets. The part consumed is the inner bark, and unless you are in a serious emergency, take great care to gather this in the way that won’t kill the tree.

As the name implies, the texture, especially when made into a “survival gruel”, is slimy. Though slime isn’t my favorite texture, the flavor is neutral and almost pleasant. The mucilage (slime) also holds medicinal qualities that can help soothe digestive and respiratory irritation.

2. Cat Tails

I’ll never forget the time I mentioned in a college class that in an emergency you can eat cattails. To the horror of my classmates, I had to explain quickly and behind bright red cheeks that I’m not talking about a cat’s tail, but this plant!

This water loving plant is common in wetland areas, and you may have played with the flowers which clump tightly together on a tall spike that looks like a corn dog. When ripening you can release the tight flowers and they expand into white and very fluffy clumps that blow away and/or get attached to all your clothes. While fun, the fluff is not what you want to eat, though it can help as fire kindling. The edible parts include the stalk and young stems, which can be eaten raw or cooked (after peeling the outer layers). The young shoots can also be eaten cooked like asparagus, the roots can be dried and turned into flour and the nutritious pollen can be collected and added to foods.

3. Hawthorn Berries

The pacific NW is overrun with the invasive Himalayan blackberries, so go ham on those if you see them first (a bonus survival plant to know). A less commonly known edible berry grows on the Hawthorn tree. Ripe in Autumn, these red berries are found commonly in the wild, beside meadows and city sidewalks.

Hawthorn Berries

They are great because they can be eaten raw and range in flavor from bland/mealy apple to juicy and delicious. They are small but can be gathered, deseeded then dried or turned into sauces, beverages and jams. They support cardiovascular health and are high in antioxidants. Just watch out for those thorns! Learn more about Hawthorn here.

Bonus: 1 Plant to avoid at all cost: Snow Berries

You may notice birds eating this cute fluffy berry but be warned, it’s poisonous to humans. You can find these shrub berries throughout winter in the forest understory, as well as ornamentals in gardens. Though not extremely deadly, you do not want the gastrointestinal distress these will cause even if you’re not in a survival situation.

*NOTE: Always get multiple reputable sources (such as a reference book and double checking with a local Herbalist) before ingesting a plant you find.

Stay Green! And keep an eye out for our local plant walks coming up in Spring by adding your email below.

Tags: Foraging, Survival Skills, Wild harvesting, Plant I.D., Urban Foraging, Wild Foods, PNW Plants

Follow @mossytonic for more Herbals Info!