Herb Profile: Hawthorn

Botanical Names: Crataegus monogyna, C. laevigata, C. media

Family: Rosaceae

Common Names: The May Tree, May Blossom, Quickthorn, Haegthorn, White Thorn, Bread and Cheese Tree

Identification: There are two species of Hawthorn native to Britain – the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), and the Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), though the two often hybridise (C. x media) and can then be difficult to tell apart. The Midland Hawthorn is not usually found in Scotland. All Hawthorns have the same edible & medicinal properties. C. monogyna is a thorny deciduous shrub or tree growing to 10m. Its leaves are deeply lobed, flowers growing 10-16 together in corymbs, with five petals with one style. Fruit has one seed. C. laevigata differs in having leaves which are more rounded, and tapering to the base, and flowers with 2-3 styles.

Parts Used: Leaves, Flowers, Berries

Edibility & Nutrition: The fruit is edible both raw and cooked, though not particularly flavoursome raw. In Ancient Times it was more known as a food than a medicine. It can be used for making jams, preserves and ketchups and its naturally high pectin content means it can be used to set jams and other preserves without artificial pectin or additives. Traditionally country folk would also eat the young shoots and leaves, describing them as “bread and cheese” – they have a light and nutty, but slightly dry flavour.