Hawthorn Leather 3

Nicola made some hawthorn leather during the week, with a few blackberries added in to give a little sweetness.  Here’s how she made it.

Collect a good helping of haws and a handful of blackberries.  Nicola used a traditional trug.  Leave them outside for a little while to allow any insects to make an escape.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UKRemove as much of the stems as you can and start to pulp the haws and blackberries.  Nicola used a traditional Victorian potato masher that she made on a pole lathe.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UK

You’ll need to keep going at it for a while until you reach the kind of consistency shown below.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UK

To remove the seeds, push the pulp through a sieve with the back of a spoon.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UK

You should now have a smooth paste.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UK

Pour it onto a sheet of parchment paper laid on a baking tray. Aim to get a depth of 2 – 3mm.

making hawthorn leather, Kent, London, UK

Pop the tray into the oven on it’s lowest temperature; leave the door open a crack. You’ll need to leave the leather in the oven for a good 8 hours or so to remove the water.  Alternatively, you could use a de-hydrator.  Once it’s de-hydrated, cut the fruit leather into strips.  We found that scissors work as well as anything.

Pop the strips in an airtight container to store.

hawthorn leather | foraging | Kent

If you want to try out other fruits and berries, take a look here first.

We make many fruit preserves on our autumn foraging course. You can see plenty of photos from this and all of our other courses on our Facebook page.

A note on the seeds

Strictly speaking the thing inside a haw is a kernel and not a seed.  A seed is a mature plant ovule containing an embryo, whereas a kernel is a seed enclosed in a husk.  But as most people refer to them as seeds, it makes sense to here.

Hawthorn is in the Rosaceae family of plants, a family that includes many members that fruit – apple, pear, plum, cherry, blackthorn, almond, cherry laurel for example.

The kernels of many members of the Rosaceae family contain a cyanogenic glycoside called amygdalin.  If cyanogenic glycosides are ingested, stomach enzymes can start a process whereby hydrocyanic acid (HCN) is liberated.  This in turn can cause oxygen starvation of the nervous system, leading to death.  Ruminants are generally more susceptible than non-ruminants

My 2 go-to books on plant toxicity ’Poisonous Plants in Britain and their effects on Animals and Man’ by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and ‘A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants’ by Frohne and Pfander, barely mention hawthorn in their discussions on amygdalin poisoning.

Frohne and Pfander, in relation to the Rosacea family in general, state that

“cyanogenic glycosides when taken orally are not as a rule under optimal conditions for the liberation of HCN” and that “concentrations of HCN that are dangerous to the human organism can only be reached after massive ingestion of those plant parts which have a high content of cyanogenic compounds”.

Frohne and Pfander go on to cite a recorded case where a man ate an entire cup of apple seeds in one go, and consequently died of cyanide poisoning.

Eating the odd hawthorn seed won’t do you any harm but avoid eating them in large quantities.

About Gary

Lead Instructor at Jack Raven Bushcraft, teaching bushcraft, wilderness and survival skills to groups and individuals.

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3 thoughts on “Hawthorn Leather

  • Tabitha Nolan

    Hope you don’t mind me saying but thats a colander not a sieve! And it could allow seeds through….which are poisonous!

    • Gary Post author

      You’re right, it’s a colander! However, the holes are still too small for the seeds to fit through, hawthorn seeds are big, around half of the fruit is the seed.

      I’ll add a paragraph to the post on the toxicity of hawthorn seeds when I get a chance (spoiler – you would need to eat an awful lot of seeds to become ill).