pink hawthorn flowers

HAWTHORN

There are all sorts of superstitions attached to hawthorn. In ancient times it was a symbol of fertility and marriage; it was linked to unregulated frolicking in fields rather than conjugal love in the home and according to old country superstition, illness or death would soon follow if hawthorn blossom was taken into the house.

Presumably these beliefs were due to the scent, which is heavy and not overly attractive once the flowers start to age and discolour. According to QI, the distinctive element of hawthorn scent is triethylamine, which is one of the first chemicals produced when a human body starts to decay and is also found in human semen and vaginal secretions. Given that, perhaps it’s not surprising that it wasn’t welcome indoors and was linked to death and sex. I think ageing hawthorn blossom smells like the Copydex glue that we used at primary school (which also started as white and yellowed with age).

EATING HAWTHORN

Having read about the scent of hawthorn blossom, you may be dubious about using it any recipes. You may truly believe that you’ll be bringing death into the house with your bunch of hawthorn flowers. But …

You can eat the leaves and flowers in spring and the berries in the autumn.

Hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries are reputed to improve heart function.

Add young hawthorn leaves to a bowl of salad leaves.

Make a hedgerow (sort of) pesto with the leaves of hawthorn, stinging nettles, wild garlic and jack-by-the-hedge leaves whizzed together in the food processor with walnuts, rapeseed oil and cheddar cheese.

If you’re going to use flowers for any of these recipes, just remember to use the young, fresh flowers that haven’t started to yellow or brown with age.