This year has been an exceptional year for nearly all wild fruit and nuts and the hawthorn is no exception. With miles and miles of hawthorn hedgerow in this country haws are an almost in exhaustible resource and there are are numerous ways of utilising them, some of which have already been featured such as hawthorn ketchup.
The health benefits of haws has been well documented particularly their effects on the heart and circulation. Along with the leaves and the flowers of the tree, they contain antioxidants like oligomeric procyandins and quercetin. They have been shown to increase blood supply to the heart muscle by dilating the coronary artery and increase the amount the heart contracts on each beat. It can be used to treat;- high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis, angina, heart conditions, raynaud’s syndrome as well as stress, hot flushes, and insomnia. Supposedly it can even improve athletic performance. It is apparently still classed as an official drug in the countries like of Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, and Switzerland.
To get the most health benefits from the berries they need to be consumed on a regular basis i.e. daily, over a period of time, so ideally you want to make products that can be made while there is a glut and that will then keep 12 months until the next year’s crop is available so that you can continue to take them throughout the year. The previously mentioned ketchup will generally keep for 12 months, as will jams and jellies and fruit leathers made from the berries. Another method which is simple to do and works well, is simply to extract the active components into alcohol in the form of a tincture.
- Fill a jar two thirds full with haws
- Add 50-100g of sugar (according to taste).
- Top up the jar to the brim with vodka
- Cap tightly
- Shake daily until the sugar dissolves
- Then mix occasionally
- Leave for at least two weeks but the longer the better.
- Strain through a double layer of fine muslin cloth and bottle.
The berries will lose their colour after a week or so and go quite pale.The vodka will take on a pale reddish/orange hue.
For the medicinal benefits simply take a teaspoon of the tincture in water daily, it is however a pleasant drink in it’s own right……..remember to drink sensibly.
Bruton-Seal, J & Seal, M. “Hedgerow Medicine” (Merlin Unwin Books, 2008)