Do you know the hawthorn secret? Ray Mears does!

The view from below

There are 200 different species of hawthorn in the world, and the fruits of all Crataegus spp. are edible. They range in flavor from palatable to tasty, although that’s also a factor of your hunger. (They make a great tea too.)

But hawthorn berries are tricky to process: how do you separate many seeds inside from the good stuff? At about 1:50 into the video, U.K. forager Ray Mears offers an ingenious solution.

Hawthorn is full of of flavonoids — antioxidants — and its great for the heart. Many people make tinctures of hawthorn berries to take for prolonged stretches as a cardiovascular tonic. It’s popular in Europe and China for lowering blood pressure.

Hawthorn tree

Hawthorn is a big shrub or small tree that comes in lots of different forms. All have intense thorns on the branches, though some can appear hidden until you look closely. Click here for a link to a wonderful U.K. web site that has amazingly clear photos of leaves and thorns.The berries look a lot like rose hips.

If you’re wondering about tincturing hawthorn, here’s a recipe from Gregory Tilford’s book, “From Earth to Herbalist”: Crush fresh berries and use 60% alcohol solution, at one part hawthorn to two parts alcohol.

Then explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

16 thoughts on “Do you know the hawthorn secret? Ray Mears does!

  1. Hi, I bought 2 hawthorn trees from a seed catalog and after 2 years, 1 of them is now bearing fruit. But I am hesitant to try eating the berries until I am 100% certain they are a variety that is edible! So I was relieved to read here that all species are edible. Here’s the problem: Neither of these young trees has any thorns at all!!! I know they were sold as hawthorn and the berries look like hawthorn. But, NO thorns!!! The trees are about 5 feet tall and very slim. Could it be that they are just too young to have thorns? But, 1 of the trees produced about 20 berries in the past month. They’d been developing all summer and look quite ripe and yummy now. I got the trees specifically to eat the berries but I’m confused about the lack of thorns. Help!

    • Hey Monica,

      I would suggest checking in with that seed catalog company and asking them for the Latin name of the variety you ordered. If it is indeed a Crataegus species, it’s possible that they may have bred an ornamental variety that doesn’t have thorns, as is the case with, for example, honey locust trees. I’m no expert on ornamental trees or on breeding them, so checking in with them is your best bet!

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  6. Tom,

    I’ve actually tried using a rotary press and had no luck with it. It might be that the one I was using was too rickety to exert much pressure, but I found there was a big space between the blade and the sludge of berry mush and nothing to push it through.

    Yes, hawthorn is high in pectin, according to the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants.

    ~ Becky

  7. Nice video. 😀
    I especially liked the harvesting method.

    I think a rotary food press would separate the juice from the pulp more efficiently.

    Does anyone know if hawthorn berries are high in natural pectin? I’m just wondering what makes them jell up on their own.

  8. Patrick,

    You have a wonderful blog! Thanks for stopping by here to say hello. Your link here is the first I’ve seen of the urbanibalism folks, but we certainly seem to be surfing that same thought-wave in the ocean of the collective unconscious, don’t we? Seems they are in Amsterdam, and I am in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. And you are in Australia, right?! I love the internet!

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