Common name: Hawthorn, Whitethorn, Mayblossom
Scientific name: Crataegus monogyna
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
This thorny shrub or small tree is common in hedges and woodlands across Ireland. The deeply lobed leaves are distinctive, appearing in April before the white flowers (with pink pollen on stamens) in May. The red berries (“haws”) appear in September-October.
Whitethorn is often confused with Blackthorn, which has flowers before the oval unlobed leaves appear and produces a blue-black fruit like a tiny plum (“sloes”) in autumn.
Both flowers and young leaves can be eaten directly off the tree or used fresh or dried to make a tasty tea. The berries have a mealy flesh and can be used to make a jelly with crab apples or a fruit leather. They are high in pectin, so you can also use then to make vegetarian jellies
Hawthorn is an excellent heart tonic, strengthening the heart muscle and improving the efficiency of each beat, which helps normalise blood pressure and pulse rate and can help with arrhythmias. The collagen in the berries is also good for healing connective tissue throughout the body.
Fill a wide-mouthed jam jar with fresh haws (pop them in the freezer for 2 days if picking before the first frost), cover with brandy, close the lid and label. Leave to steep for 1 month, shaking gently every day. The resulting ruby-red brandy is delicious and supports heart health – take 25ml glass occasionally.