Tales of the Urban Forager: Hawthorn Berries, for the Heart

According to Herbal Medicine (Herbalism) Hawthorn berries have long been heralded as a helpful remedy for the heart & circulation; whether for the blood and balancing blood pressure or to assist against heart disease or for romantic love & the heart … Also popularly known as ‘bread & cheese’ to those who ate them to live on during harvest time; the young leaves and ripe berries have been eaten for centuries in Great Britain.

This year I could no longer simply walk past bushes laden with red little berries (containing pips) without a thought as to what to do with them. Hawthorn berries are often found to be useful for decorative purposes at festivals or events which utilise parts of the natural world for their decor. I was recently invited to lead several foraging related activities and events at the Into the Wild festival near to Lewes, a few weeks ago, where both Hawthorn berries and branches adorned their decorative archways. We stayed until the end to witness the pack-down and was given a whole heap of them to take home to turn into anything remotely edible.

It was too good an opportunity to miss, so last week I therefore attempted to make good use of them by turning them into a savoury spread\pate and an end-of-Summer totally natural botanical tonic.

Sorting: Remove the berries from the branches by hand and discard any tough stems and leaves which  them out from their leaves. To clean them; soak in fresh water.

Soaking: Soak overnight to remove any dirt from the skins. Following this, discard the soak water and retain the red berries by placing them into a saucepan or container to cook with water for 1 – 4 hrs for their pulp. Add just enough water to cover the berries into a saucepan and simmer until the liquid has turned red\orange and the berries are soft and pulpy (turned from red to green).

Tonic elixir: after cooking, strain the liquid off and allow to cool. This is the tonic; pour into a bottle and store in the fridge. Keeps for at least one week. Recommended dose 5-10 ml daily.

Mash the cooled green berries by hand or with a spoon through a sieve to remove their skins and pips, until a grey\brown spread is reached.

Place the spread into a storage container & keep refrigerated. Keeps for 1 week +

Serve with veggie (fake) cheese on crackers or with a salad as a condiment.




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