Thursday, 29 September 2011
Hips and haws
We're lucky to have a hawthorn tree in our garden, Crataegus monogyna. In early May it affords us nostalgic views of its beautiful white lacy blossom, an early sign of summer. In the hedgerows further out of town it divides fields with its virginal blooms, although do not confuse it with the blackthorn, which blossoms earlier in spring. Hawthorn: leaves first, then blossom with red fruit; blackthorn, blossom first, then leaves with bruise blue sloes. It's amazing that I only learnt this recently considering how ubiquitous and sentimentally appreciated both these hedgerow species are.
It also came as a surprise that you can eat the hawthorn berry, turn it into jam, jelly, wine or a flu and cold tonic. Indeed, the haw is not technically a berry at all but a pome, a type of fruit produced by certain flowering plants in the Rosaceae family. Other examples of pomes include apples, quince, rowan, pear and whitebeam.
Not only is the haw fruit beneficial for human consumption, being rich in antioxidants, it's also a major autumn staple for a host of wildlife including blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches, yellowhammers, chaffinches and starlings. If only the numerous cats and foxes in our garden would let a bird near a tree to feast.