Hawthorn Flower & Leaf Harvest & Drying
Last week, the hawthorn flower & leaf harvest began here in the Snoqualmie Valley. It is the annual event that really opens the door to summer, as I dance my seasonal round.
Blooming hawthorn branches harvested & heading home to dry
The first hawthorn to bloom in this area is the Crataegus monogyna, the one-seeded hawthorn. The leaves and flowers of this haw are smaller and more tender than haws that come into flower later in the season. Overall there is a 6-8 week harvest of haw from start to finish. Given that each tree blooms from 3-6 days, you can see there are many species of hawthorn in the valley for such a long harvest window.
To harvest, I use hand pruners, a 4' pruner, and occasionally a pole pruner. I like to keep my feet on the ground, and these tools eliminates the need to haul a ladder.
When harvesting hawthorn with the tree in mind, consider these pruning objectives:
Maintaining tree size for the space it inhabits
Increasing vigor & integrity of the tree
Opening the interior for ease of harvest & allowing light and air to reach the inner limbs
Improving flower & fruit production
Hawthorns have evolved near humans for centuries, this technique benefits both tree and forager
Using the 3-D's of pruning, removing dead, diseased, damaged wood will guide your hand while harvesting hawthorn both in the spring and fall. This is stacking functions with the tree's health & vitality in mind, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of harvest.
Hawthorn flowers & leaves drying on sheets before the 2nd picking
Once the initial picking is completed, the limbs are transported to the shop where they are laid out on sheets to dry. Branches dry about 2/3rds of the way, then the second picking is done. If allowed to dry completely, the leaf & flower becomes brittle and more difficult to remove from the limbs without shattering. Partially dry, the small sprigs come off fairly easily in complete bundles. Then drying is finished in small open boxes. When completely dry, the herb should be crisp. Once the flowers have completely dried, they are placed in bags and put into the freezer for at least one week. This eliminates any bugs that may have come along for the ride. Dried flowers easily degrade and insects are the leading cause. By maintaining their integrity, they last longer. On another note, harvest just what you'll use in a year and enjoy the seasonal dance.
For using dried hawthorn flowers & leaves in tea and long infusion, check out this video.
How did your hawthorn flower & leaf harvest go? What does your hawthorn leaf & flower look like? Do you use the freezer technique pre-storage? How do you use your dried haw flowers & leaves?
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