Hawthorn Tapanade Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Hawthorn, whitethorn, May bush; Crataegus monogyna. You see it all around the Irish countryside, sometimes old rings of the gnarled and spiny trees are left untouched in rings in the middle of fields. For generations they have been treated with respect and superstition, this is where the fairies live.

Hawthorn tree with berries after the leaves have fallen

In our garden we have wild hawthorns growing, a couple of them are old and twisted. Their branches twine around themselves, imbued with a mystical quality it is easy to see how the superstitions arose.

In May, their branches are festooned with white flowers, in times past children went knocking on their neighbours doors with a flowering branch, “a penny for the May bush?” their request. When I lived in Sallynoggin, in Dublin, a number of years ago, some children called to my door with a flowering branch. They asked for a penny. Although the branch they held was a blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, and we had already converted to euro currency, I donated a small sum to their appeal, after coaxing from them a song for their reward.

Hawthorn flowers – Crataegus monogyna

Now in autumn, the flower have turned to dark red fruits, abundant but usually redundant. Few people will harvest these berries, often called haws. I read in one book that the berries were only ever used in times of famine. The berries are quite tasteless when eaten raw, and only a thin covering of flesh surrounds the stone. However, with so many berries in the hedgerows, there must be a use for them, I was determined to find some.

In a second hand book sale a couple of years ago I purchased a publication on wild food, in it a recipe for hawthorn chutney. While I was cooking hawthorn chutney, Hanna experimented with some of the berries and created a delicious hawthorn tapenade. This resulted in another foray along the lanes and narrow roads in the Mayo countryside picking ripe haws from the trees. Hanna reckons they are like Irish olives.

Further developments have led to a range of flavours: lemon and coriander, sweet chilli and garlic. I cannot pick a favourite, all are great. The chilli hawthorn tapenade was superb with organic pork sausages from Irish Organic Meats, which we buy with all our meat, vegetables and fruit from the market in Boyle each Saturday.

Cleaning the berries

Here is Hanna’s Lemon and Coriander Hawthorn  Tapenade recipe:

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 litre Hawthorn berries
  • Organic Cider Vinegar
  • Irish Rapeseed Oil
  • Whole Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Lemon
  • Salt

Press the cooked hawthorn through a sieve

Method

  1. Clean and rinse ripe haws.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with the cider vinegar. Simmer berries for twenty minutes or  until the berries break up.
  3. Sieve away the vinegar.
  4. Push the berries through a sieve to remove stones
  5. Mix berries with lemon rind, coriander and a goo quality rapeseed oil or olive oil
  6.  Then put pulp in a sterilized jar to store.

Filling the tapenade into sterilized jars using jam funnel

Enjoy with cheeses, meats and salads.

For garlic variation replace lemon and coriander with freshly pressed garlic. For chili use dried chillis instead of lemon and coriander and stir in honey after sieving. When we first made these tapenades a two years ago we found that they kept perfectly for well over a year.

Foliage of Crataegus monogyna – hawthorn leaves

5 Comments to “Hawthorn Tapanade Recipe”

  1. I am really really happy with this post. At the bottom of our land we have a few hawthorn’s and I have been wondering if the berries are edible. I have learned now that they are and that you gave me great recipes. Thanks!

  2. And hawthorns are so good for you! The tapenade sounds lovely, love the idea of the lemon and coriander one! Will definitely give it a go.

    Hope you saw this? http://ayearinredwood.com/2012/10/28/spread-the-love/

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