Hawthorn / Spring / Summer / Autumn / Edible
Hawthorn is one of those plants that often blurs the line between medicine and food, it’s used for helping to regulate the heart and blood pressure, both for high and low blood pressure, but it can also be used in many recipes from Bakewell tarts to salads and even ketchup.
As its’ name implies Hawthorn contains many thorns up its branches which can give a good prick. If you’re on blood-thinning medication are not advised to eat lots of this plant, consult your doctor for this.
Could be confused with
This tree could quite easily be confused with the Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) or the Sloe bearing tree which does look quite similar. The easiest way to differentiate between these two plants is in spring; as the Hawthorn goes into leaf before flower, the Blackthorn will go into flower before leaf.
Range and Distribution
It grows well in northern Europe, over the majority of America but mainly in the north and also Asia.
Hawthorn is native to the UK and has been historically used in hedgerows around farmers’ fields, although this is less common in Scotland. It will grow on acid and most other soils, heaths, rocky and open areas. It can be found in scrubs, thickets, woodland, and open areas although we mainly find it on growing mainly on moist soil.
This large shrub or small tree can grow from 5-14m tall and grows an extremely dense crown. Its bark ranges from mid-dark brown and typically contains upward running orange cracks. The tree itself tends to grow twisted and contorted, making it look mythical, and the young branches contain many thorns.
The leaves are dark green on top and light green underneath, they can grow from 2-5cms in length, are obvate or teardrop-shaped, and deeply lobed.
The flowers, which are produced around May, have both female and male reproducing parts, they can be found in corymbs of 10-25 together. Each Flower is about 1cm in diameter and contains 5 white petals and are slightly fragrant.
In autumn where there once stood flowers, you will now find haws. These are the trees fruit that resembles 1cm round red berries, although it is actually the structure of a pomme, containing a single seed.
Leaves: Edible when fresh and young, in salads and pasta dishes
Flowers: Edible, in teas, syrups, cakes
Fruit: Edible, ketchup, chutney, fruit leather, tomato puree.
Linking to the folklore of hawthorn being an extremely protective plant, it’s used in herbal medicine to help heart ailments, The chemical proanthocyanidin found within leaf, flower and the fruit of hawthorn can lower blood pressure.
Hawthorn wood is an extremely hard wood and works really well for carving, turning, and working with, it gives a pale finish and cuts very well.
If you have enough time and patience you can tap and collect the sap from the hawthorn during spring, as you would with pine, this can then be used instead of gum Arabic in the production of wild watercolours, although it shrinks a lot more than gum Arabic when drying, and this should be kept in mind.