Crataegus - hawthorn
Picking the berries is a picknick, sometimes. Processing them isn't.
These trees have been beckoning to me for quite some time now.
They did it already a month ago, when they still had bright yellow fall foliage, but now they've dropped all their leaves and those orange-red berries are a splash of color in an otherwise brown landscape.
The trees are young, I'd guess less than 20 years old. So they're still low enough for me to pick most (but not all) of the berries. There's about 10 trees, and three of them were still bearing lots of berries. I have no idea what species they are; in that group there's perhaps 2-3 different Crataeguses.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) of course has thorns (the name sort of gives that fact away), but while they made themselves felt in my sweater they didn't puncture my skin anywhere, or even give an ouch. Reaching up into branches higher up I was a tad apprehensive about those thorns that close to my eyes - they could be dangerous - but it was no trouble.
Fun, picking overripe frostbitten berries: if you pluck a cluster with too much vigor the branch will bounce back and spray red berries everywhere. I put my basket underneath where I was picking, and did catch a lot of falldowns that way, that I shook loose while picking berries next to them, but of course the basket didn't catch the wider red-berry sprays. Berries that dropped underneath the trees but didn't hit the basket were easy to spot in the grass'n'wet dark brown foliage.
The berries were wet, too, of course -- we've had one of the rainiest summers ever, and autumn has continued on the same theme.
I'm splitting the berries now, with a sharp knife (dull won't cut it). A third or so are done; the old rule is that it takes three times as long to process as it takes to pick, but picking only was half an hour, and I think I've been splitting for longer than that already. (The old rule also says that you have to process your herbs the same day, as they won't get any better if you leave them; think of them as fish, or mushrooms.)
Why do I split the berries, you ask? 'cos I want to dry them properly. I'm going away over the weekend, and won't leave the dehydrator running while I'm not here, but I can get them started overnight, and dump the lot onto old bedsheets on newspapers tomorrow; then continue dehydrator-drying once I'm back, probably Sunday, but if it's raining out in the countryside then tomorrow evening.
I'd split them for a fresh herb tincture, too, the better to get the goodness out; but these will become dried herb.
There's next to no extra protein in the berries. No larvae at all, just a few of the small flying things, less than an "i" long and wide, in among the large seeds in the berries, here and there. There's not many of those either, and I expect they'll remove themselves once I put heat under the dehydrator trays.
Pic: Freshly split hawthorns.
They're all cut up now. I got two small almost-blisters on thumb and finger, from having to press the knife down into the berries so hard. This because the berries each have 3-4 enormous and very hard seeds, and they're clustered together. It's press down and hope you find a chink between seeds, or press down and hope a seed gives sideways, which also splits the berry. All this while also holding the berry with the other hand... no red juice from my fingers this time, though.
They're in the dehydrator, 5 trays full, on 45 deg.C.
The smell is strange, a mix between unripe apples and overripe whatevers. My friend said, when I told the dehydrator to stop the funny smell, that it just smells of berries. Okaaay...
Some were still soft and bright red (the ones that weren't split apart properly), but most were crumpled dark-red, with a light brown cut side. They're on a sheet on newspapers now. They've stopped smelling.
They're back in the dehydrator. They were almost dry but not yet, so they get another night on heat (40 deg.C). I'll probably dry them for longer than that, 3-4 days, to be on the safe side; moist berries in tight glass jars will grow moldy in next to no time.
Lovely lovely Crataegus. I wonder who'll need those berries this winter? Because, as eny fule kno, plants that beckon that much do it for a reason...
It's a herb for courage, and a mood lifter, and a circulation/heart strengthener. Very nice herb, is Crataegus.