Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna has long been a favourite sign of springtime in Great Britain. Its pretty white flowers follow a flush of green leaves. Hawthorn has many local and country names, some of the most commonly heard are quick thorn, whitethorn, and most famously, the May tree, for its flowers traditionally appear in the month of May. Another name you will hear the hawthorn referred to is that of ‘bread and cheese tree’ which we will come to shortly. Hawthorn is a common hedgerow tree, often planted to create an impenetrable barrier for live stock. As the name suggests, it is covered in thorns, but they are not quite as vicious as those of the common Blackthorn Prunus spinosa.
LEAVES – the name ‘bread and cheese’ is referring to the leaves which have a nutty, and pleasant taste, as long as they are very young when eaten.
BERRIES – Late in the year you will notice lots of red berries appear on the hawthorn. These berries are known as ‘haws’. Birds will feed on these through the winter, and so can we, although they don’t really taste very much, and are dominated by a stone, which must not be cracked so be sure to spit it out! The stone is often made up of several segments which tend to fuse together to appear as one. The berries are mostly used to make jams, and fruit leathers.
SEEDS – the seeds should not be cracked when eating the flesh of the berry, but they can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute.