There is an old Scottish proverb “Mony haws, Mony snows” meaning that an abundance of haws (hawthorn berries) will bring a severe winter.
It will be interesting to see if this old folk belief pans out this year. I have a suspicion it will.
While on a train to London back in late October, I remember noticing how red the hedgerows looked as we sped along, and the impression they made on me.
The redness came from the Hawthorn trees heavily laden with early Autumn fruits. In some areas, the hedgerows where more red than green!
This year I have been particularly captivated by Hawthorn. I’m putting it down to my visit to Ireland earlier in the year, where I sat in Hawthorn glades, under trees that some locals believed dated back 2000 years.
I’m not too sure that time frame is correct, but I do know that some Hawthorn trees can certainly live to be at least 700 years old.
And so Hawthorn caught my attention.
How was I going to work with this delightful, beautiful and mysterious tree?
If you look in the recipe books, you’ll find most of the offerings are sweet.
Jams, jellies, fruit-cheeses etc. adorn the pages of them. Books that conjure up feelings of bygone days. Of a yesteryear where we mostly lived in closer relationship to Land.
Yet I wanted to do something different with the Haws.
Although I like sweet, it isn’t my primary ‘taste’. For instance I don’t eat sweet food in the morning, and instead savour… well, savoury foods. Even spicy gets in there occasionally.
Muesli with chilli flakes anyone?
So there I was lovingly touching the Haws, when an image drifted through my mind.
“Nah” I thought initially. Immediately dismissing as usual, my intuitive hunches.
Oh the joys of being such a habituated human being.
Fortunately I caught myself doing so, and returned to posit that this ‘hawthorn-human’ interaction I was having might be revealing something worthy of paying attention to.
And so I set about crafting a new recipe. I call it Dragon’s Breath Relish, because trust me, this is not something you want to eat on your own.
It’s incredibly easy to make, but does take a few days for the final results to be revealed.
I like that. Uncomplicated slow food.
With Winter drawing in, and fires being kindled across these Isles, what better nourishment than a dish that will get you all hot and bothered just with one mouthful!
Before I tell you how to make this hawthorn recipe, I do need to bring to your attention…
Right, now that my lawyer has stopped whispering annoyingly in my ear about ‘litigious society’, let’s get on to the fun stuff, crafting this blunderbuss of a recipe.
I found it pretty delicious to be honest, but I am used to strange flavours and combinations.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Robin is a forager and self-taught ethnobotanist. He specialises in wild edible plants and has been running foraging courses throughout the UK since 2008. He travels extensively documenting and recording the traditional and local uses of wild food plants in indigenous cultures.