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Crataegus - hawthorn

Problems:

Picking the berries is a picknick, sometimes. Processing them isn't.

Friday afternoon:
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.

Photo: Crataegus 8. Pic: Hawthorns in a basket, pretty pretty.
So I got a basketful of nice bright orange berries. My oh my, the color! - such a nice contrast to green grass and dark brown leaves.

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.

Friday evening:

Photo: Crataegus 10. 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...

Saturday morning:
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.

Sunday evening:
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.

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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.

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Update: Pic of dried berries.
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Related entry: Flavonoids - Hawthorn and the heart

Comments

This is exactly why you are such a wonderful teacher, Henriette! I don't have Crataegus here on my property, but I love seeing how you dry them, etc. I will be linking to your blog on mine. :-)

Yay! Hetta's got a blog!

The description's a treat Henriette. I was immediately transported to a hawthorn stand next to our barn foundation on the farm. It was about -20F and the snow was thigh deep, the wind blowing a gale, and the ice crystals from the drifting snow burned my checks. To find a moment's respite, I crawled beneath those thorney branches and, for once, didn't curse them but understood the appeal of the protection with the winter frozen berries above still clinging to the shrub. It was like finding a bed and breakfast in a very unexpected place. I was grateful for its vigor when I was not. Wooden Shoe (http://fastcurrent.blogspot.com) aka Aliceann

Welcome to blog land, don't listen to anyone but me, I'll steer you straight. :)

Lovely, just lovely! Not to mention that this herb - beautiful crataegus - is near and dear to my heart. Pun intended. So far the others are rather "foriegn" to me and so are learning opportunities. THANK YOU.

Hello Hetta! I know just what you mean about processing taking longer than collecting. "Rose hips", she said darkly, "don't talk to me about rose hips. Especially, don't try to convince me that molishing apple and rosehip jelly with Rosa Rugosa hips is a good idea." "Oh?", enquired her friend, "why's that?" In reply she held up one heavily bandaged hand...

Henriette
i have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and am trying to self treat with hawthorn berry. with this in mind i am interested in collecting and prepairing my own berries. iwonder if you know where i could get a full description of the methods used ?

Um, okay ... My name's Bentley. I'm new here. I was researching for a project at school (grains and legumes) and came across this site, and it seemed interesting and informative so I joined. I really wasn't expecting this though, the interesting and informal; I thought it was just going to be a lot of dry textbooky stuff. Thank you for the surprise.
As for the hawthorn, I remember those! My siblings and I used to nibble on them all the time when we were kids. I don't seem to see many of them around anymore though. Have they fallen out of fashion, or is simply that my new home (Toronto) is a little beyond their range?

Hi Bentley!
They're around - I think you're looking for them in the wrong spots, or at the wrong time. They're easy to overlook, except when in full flower, or in berry.



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