Haws are the splendid though unfortunately named berries of the Hawthorn Tree. They are easily the most prolific berry of autumn, and persist long after the Sloes have all shrivelled and fallen, and Blackberries are nothing but a distant memory. I doubt there’s a hedgerow in all of Britain without at least one of these most generous of plants, which offer an unsparing bloom of powdery-white and raspberry-ripple blossom in spring, and glossy, lipstick-red berries in September through December – the very blood of autumn.
You’ll have to be quick now if you want to grab yourself some of these fine berries this year. September and October are the very best times to pick Haws, with things starting to dwindle in November, and completely disappearing by the end of December. We are lucky this year in that we have had a relatively mild autumn, and so I was still rather impressed by their persistence yesterday when I went out a-gathering. But perhaps another week or two and they’ll all be gone, so now is your last chance to lay down some of my Chilli Hawthorn Dipping Sauce or Hawthorn Hedgerow Jelly to see you through till next September – there’s not a moment to lose!
You should have no trouble identifying Haws, nor indeed finding them. In fact, their sheer abundance is quite a good indicator that the red berries you will find yourself surrounded in come autumn are indeed Haws. But this is not quite enough to be sure, as there are a number of quite nasty poisonous red berries that look superficially similar. I am thinking of Black Bryony in particular, but this grows in long ‘strings’ or sometimes bunches, whereas Haws always grow in clusters along the Hawthorn Tree’s thorny branches. For further pictures and description, see my Edible Berries A-Z page, and keep watching this blog for more on the poisonous Black Bryony.
The forager’s undisputed bible is Richard Mabey’s Food For Free (1972) in which he likens the taste of raw Haws to ‘avocado pear’. I think this is a rather generous appraisal, as Haws are pretty much all skin and pip, and, despite my rather tongue-in-cheek title for this blog post, they aren’t really that sweet. But by all means try one for yourself – you might like it. Cooking is where these little red beads come into their own, and for some truly innovative inspiration I refer you to Wild*Crafty’s excellent blog What Can I Do With Hawthorn Berries? But do try my Chilli Hawthorn Dipping Sauce – you’ll be licking your lips all the way to next fall.
P.S. This post also appears on markITwrite.com, the word in professional, persuasive writing for the web.