Hawthorn Ketchup?! Yes, it's a thing.

Just over a year ago, Patrick and I ventured to the magical place known as Ireland on a group ethnobotanical exploration of the land where some of our ancestors are from.  We immersed ourselves in Irish basketry, learned how to weave a crios band, wandered one of the few old growth forests remaining, and ate traditional Irish food.  Lots and lots and lots of traditional Irish food.  Our guide, ethnobotanist Heidi Bohan, spoiled us with some of the tastiest home-cooked soups and breads and potato dishes ever.  She really wanted us to experience the warm hearty food culture of Ireland!

Heidi also brought us to a magical woodland area to do some foraging.  Although we were far, far away from our beloved PNW, we felt like we were right at home amongst the blackberry bushes, ferns and mosses in the lush and moist landscape of Ireland.  We spent an entire day harvesting all of the wild edible foods that we could find.  At the end of the day, our bounty looked a lot like something you might harvest from western Washington this time of year. There were crab apples, rose hips, and hawthorn berries galore!

Although I had been incorporating wild rose hips into to my foraged food repertoire for some time, hawthorn berries, on the other hand, were a new concept to me.  I really hadn’t given them much notice up until then. I hadn’t really considered them something to bother with!

Back at our Irish kitchen, we got right to work processing our abundance.  Heidi had all sorts of wild food recipes to experiment with:  Sloe gin, Hedgerow Jelly and… Hawthorn Ketchup!

Hawthorn Ketchup?! I was surprised by this concept.  Is that really a thing?  Why yes, it is a thing, one of my travel companions assured me.  Well, at least it’s a bit of a thing amongst wild food aficionados. In fact, it’s actually a pretty tasty thing!  And not only that, it’s a pretty healthy thing. Hawthorn berries are full of antioxidants and are known to be beneficial to heart health. So, in case you’re curious about this Hawthorn Ketchup phenomenon (and if you want something new and interesting to do with all of those hawthorn berries that you’ve been seeing around these days), here’s how I like to make it:

Ingredients:

2 2/3 cups hawthorn berries

1 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Step 1: Harvest the hawthorn berries away from roadsides. English Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is considered a noxious weed in some parts of WA state, so make sure to harvest in an area that isn’t sprayed with herbicides. Be confident with your hawthorn identification before you harvest!

Step 2:  Separate the berries from their stems and rinse well.

Step 3:  Add the berries to a large pot with the vinegar. Bring to a boil and then allow it to simmer for approximately half an hour, until the skins of the berries begin to burst.

Step 4:  Remove the hawthorn and vinegar mixture from the heat. Squeeze this mixture through a cheese cloth or nut milk bag, or process it through a food mill, in order to remove the seeds. (This is a very important step! Like their relative the apple, hawthorn seeds also contain cyanide so it’s best to avoid consuming them!).

Step 5:  Place the strained mixture into a clean pan. Add sugar and salt, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until it’s reduced to a ketchup-like consistency.

Step 6:  Remove from heat and season the hawthorn ketchup to taste with pepper. Experiment with adding savory spices such as onion and/or garlic powder to the mix!

Step 7: Enjoy hawthorn ketchup with fries, tater tots or anything else you like to put ketchup on. Pat and I spread some on our burgers the other evening and it was deeelicious!