What is the Mayhaw?
The Mayhaw is the fruit of the thorny hawthorne tree. This small, round reddish fruit is about 1/2 to 3/4-inch in diameter and resembles the crabapple. It ripens from mid-April to early May, hence the name mayhaw. The tree flowers in February and March with a profusion of white blossoms. After frost, the leaves turn a beautiful yellow.
The mayhaw is a wild native fruit tree found along river bottoms and swamps from the Trinity River of Texas, east to Georgia and Florida, and throughout Louisiana. Although the tree is naturally found in wet, shady sites, it is well adapted to drier, better-drained land and produces more and better fruit in full sunlight. The trees are long-lived and can produce fruit for more than 50 years. They are more resistant to disease and can withstand low temperatures better than common fruit trees. LSU AgCenter research scientists at Calhoun are testing pesticides to find one that is effective in Mayhaw production.
When the mayhaws are ripe in April and early May, you can shake the tree and gather the fruit from bed sheet or piece of plastic spread under the tree. LSU Agricultural Center scientists are using large nets under the trees to catch the berries as they fall. The netting is used instead plastic because it breathes and the berries are not damaged. Old-timers recall scooping up the mayhaws with a bucket as the fruit floated on the water in streams or bogs.
The mayhaw is most often used in jelly, which we eat for pleasure rather than for its nutritional value. Jelly is a refined carbohydrate containing about 50 calories per tablespoon.
Studies at the University of Georgia Food Science and Technology Department showed that raw mayhaws are a good source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and beta carotene, which becomes vitamin A inside the body. In addition, they contain small amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium and potassium. Much of the ascorbic acid, however, is destroyed in cooking jelly.