Friday, September 6, 2013

Hawthorn Berry Fruit Leather

My apologies to my readers. I have been swamped making the final edits to my Master's Thesis. But, as of today it has been submitted elevating me to the status of Master Forager!

Even over the last few busy weeks, we still managed quite a few after-work foraging adventures. One such outing was inspired by bushcraft expert Ray Mears...hawthorn fruit leather.

Hawthorn is a delicious little berry with a ton of natural pectin. As a result, if you squeeze the berries into a mush, they will solidify into a jello-like consistency in an hour's time. This unique quality has led some to conclude that this fruit may have been pivotal to making the first jelly and jam.

Many folks love a strawberry rhubarb pie, but are surprised to learn that portions of the rhubarb plant are poisonous. The same goes for hawthorn who's berries are delectable, but cyanide-rich pits are deadly! So like all foods, we learn just how to prepare and consume them so that their greatest potential is reached.

We began by harvesting the berries.

Next the stems were removed.

Finally the fruit was squeezed and mixed with foraged peach (hawthorn berries are a bit dry this time of year and need a little added water or juice). Care was taken to remove all poisonous pits from the mixture as well. Keep in mind that this is about an hour long step, so be patient when you try it.

Next the slop was placed into a glass bowl to congeal.

After an hour the solid fruit loaf was removed and sliced.

After a few hours in the sun all the moisture had evaporated and though the fruit leather didn't look all that tasty, it certainly wasn't half bad!

An added bonus according to Ray Mears is the ability of this fruit leather to preserve for well over a year! When it comes to foragable food, such a shelf life is a major plus.

Keep the old ways alive!



  1. Congratulations!
    Looks good---beautiful photos.

  2. Hi there! We live in San Francisco and would like to find hawthorn fruits in Northern California. Where did you find these?

    Thanks Trent

    1. Hey Trent! SF should have tons of them. I wouldn't recommend harvesting in a church yard or cemetery, but if you visit one, there will almost certainly be a hawthorn tree present as planting them in such contexts was common practice in the old world and a tradition that continues here. Once you have learned to accurately identify the tree based on distinct leaf morphology, bark features, and berry shape/color, you will start seeing these everywhere. The one in this post was on private land but after asking, we were immediately granted permission as almost no one east these. Just knock on a few doors and someone is bound to be receptive. Remember that the pits are deadly poisonous though! Good luck and remember, when foraging, as in life, if you are not having fun, you're not doing it right! Enjoy!