Hawthorn Berries (Zaaroor)

Here is a lovely fruit that appears in Lebanon around the month of August; in North America there are apparently more than 800 varieties of this tree (aubépine in French) and yet I have never seen anybody eat the fruit! The hawthorn tree gives out pretty white flowers around May; a few months later they  turn into pretty reddish berries. The tree can live over 400 years.

It is  an  excellent remedy  for the treatment of cardiac problems such as high blood pressure, heart palpitations, angina, anxiety and bad circulation in the legs. It has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years.

In addition to being eaten as is, it is also dried up in the sun and drunk  as a tea with other herbs in the winter. It is also made into a jam in the fall, before the birds eat it all!

Its taste is crunchy and similar to an apple; it contains one or two small seeds.

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37 Comments

  1. Posted August 29, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I have certainly seen these berries but my mom always told me they were poisonous! I’m glad to hear they’re not…will have to give them a try.

  2. Posted August 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jumana for the post on Hawthorn. Here’s what one scholar (H. Jane Philop, 1958) once wrote about the folk use of this plant. If interested, more about this plant at http://www.stevenfoster.com/education/monograph/hawthorn.html

    350. HAWTHORN, EASTERN, Crataegus orientalis
    za’rûr
    zu’rûr el-fâr

    Hips and twigs are bought in Aleppo and carried by attarine. The hips are boiled, and the decoction given for heart trouble and kidney condition, acting as a tonic, and calming at the same time. The seeds and bark may be dried and ground fine, and used as pills for heart disease, as a sedative, and hydragogue.
    Hawthorn is used in the folk medicine of Ukraine and Caucasus and Iraq. Gypsies chop and eat raw leaves for spring tonic, and make an essence of hips to cure catarrh of the reproductive organs.

    351. HAWTHORN, SHARP-THORNED, Carategus oxycanthoides

    za’rûr
    za’rûr el awdiyah
    ashwkah al-hâdah

    Villagers use this plant for reproductive organ tonic and control. The berries with seeds and the leaves and twigs are boiled and used as a sedative, and to check hemorrhage. It is also sometimes used for respiratory illness, as a sedative to stop cough, and to reduce fever by sudorific action. It is diuretic and recommended for “cold in the kidneys.” A gargle is made of the fruits (hips) and blossoms. Two Maronite families make a wine of the fruit. The wine is supposed to be an excellent heart tonic. A wealthy member of one of these families who recently died of heart trouble, is said to have had several bottles a year sent to him, causing great difficulty to the family, in order to prolong his life. Some of the women of the family make a jam of the berry-like hips which is said to act as a mild laxative “with a built-in heart medicine.”

    © H. Jane Philips, Lebanee Folk Cures. Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1958.

  3. Posted August 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I hope that I’ll run into these hawthorne berries, they sound delicious and quite beneficial.

  4. Posted August 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    IMPORTANT, Re hawthorn: In his book The Green Pharmacy, pp. 8, 45, etc, James A. Duke warns about taking hawthorn supplements without doctor’s supervision: “[It]] is a powerful heart medicine, so do not take it without discussing it with your doctor.”

  5. Posted August 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Enfant, je croquait ces petites pommes que j’achetait près de l’école( en cachette de mes parents!) ô nostalgie!! merci Joumana de m’avoir rappelé ce petit plaisir!
    par contre je ne savais que ça avait autant de bienfaits pour la santé!!

  6. Posted August 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I remember as a child being taught to distinguish between haws (hawthorn berries), which were allegedly poisonous, and (rose)hips, which were used to make syrup. In France we have infusions d’aubépine which are supposed to be relaxing but I think this is made from the blossom (it usually shows flowers on the box).

    I’m sure there are some haws in the garden – I will have to try them!

  7. Posted August 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    How interesting. We are surrounded by hedges of hawthorn trees and each autumn they bear huge crops of berries, or haws. They look lovely, clusters of bright red, shiny berries. The birds eat them during the winter months but until your post I had no idea that that humans could eat them too. Many thanks!

  8. Posted August 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    How interesting, I am definitely going to see what I can find on Hawthorn Berries. They sound amazing both in terms of healthy benefits, and as a tea.

  9. Posted August 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Aubépine I have heard of but not in English as a fruit. Are they a bit pasty and sour. Not sure if I have had them before but I am pretty sure I have seen them.

  10. Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Very intriguing. I feel like I’ve seen sprays of these in floral decorations but have never seen them sold to eat. I must look for them! Wonderful post!

  11. Posted August 30, 2010 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    No, Joumana, I’ve never had these. Thanks for the info and also the description of the flavor and texture. I love the photo of the half bitten one….it does have texture similar to an apple.

  12. Posted August 30, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a lovely and interesting post.

  13. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    In England the hawthorn berries are often added to hedgerow jellies with blackberries and rosehips. I was actually talking to my husband about them yesterday! The problem is that there are a lot of very similar looking berries out at this time of year, and unless you know what the leaves look like, you could end up eating something very unpleasant.

  14. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Nice fruit..looks like cherry

  15. Posted August 30, 2010 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Amazing – I have never seen them for sale in the USA. The birds eat them – and are apparently very healthy! Why not us?

  16. Posted August 30, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I’ve never seen fresh ones ever! We used to eat dried hawthorns that have been sweetened and pressed into thin discs. They were called “Haw Flakes”. Also, they’re usually sold dried, I think, in Chinese medicine shops. My mother makes an infusion with them from time to time, although, without sweeteners, I don’t like them as much. I still prefer my haw flakes. =)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haw_flakes

  17. Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    But, do you like them? Are they yummy – or something you would take to feel better, only?
    :)
    Valerie

  18. Joumana
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Valerie these berries can be sweet and crunchy; delicious.

  19. Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    How interesting! I went trekking in the ditch last weekend to get a branch of these beautiful red fruits. I brought it to my mother to identify and then found many recipes using it in a British preserving book. I am eager to try my hand at haw jelly, as soon as I find a crabapple tree.

  20. Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Interesting. I guess I always thought that Hawthorn berries were poisonous. unless I’m thinking of something else… :)

  21. Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    In Poland, we make liqueurs or tea using those berries. I did not know that you can eat them dried – very interesting. Kind regards!

  22. Posted September 3, 2010 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    These look like crab apples? are they?

  23. Joumana
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Heni: no they are hawthorn berries.

  24. Johan Simith
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    GREETINGS from far away Pampore, in Kashmir I’d like to tell readers about a very special and handsome man I have met here. His name is Sheikh GULZAAR.He is a plant breeder who collects rare and vanishing species of plants, herbs and spices such has Howthorn, Ginkgo biloba. For the past 20 years he has devoted himself to developing many varieties of plants that can survive in difficult conditions. His one wish is to share his seeds of wild herbs and flowers wi th plant lovers
    elsewhere.

    He is happy to send seeds to readers living in colder climates. Please write to:
    Mr. Sheikh GULZAAR
    PO Box 667 GPO Srinagar SGR JK 190001
    THE STATE OF KASHMIR
    (Via New Delhi-India)
    e.mail: cikashmir@gmail.com
    http://chenabindustries.blogspot.com

  25. Posted September 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    At my old house we had a gorgeous pink flowered Hawthorn which I adored during the Spring season…aahh cherished memories.

    Ciao,
    Claudia

  26. Teresa
    Posted March 4, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    my mom n i love haw flakes (yummiexpress.freetzi.com/haw_flakes_index.htm)! when she was a kid she kept on eating hawflakes… and when she went for a pee, she was shocked cuz her urine was kinda red. haha.. she ate too much haw flakes!!

  27. PIET DELPORT
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    i don’t have any comments, but i would like to now if it will be possible for you to help me find seeds of the hawthon berry.(CRATAEGUST) I am a South African and i can promise you i have tried all over S.A to get hawthon berry seeds,it is just not available in South Africa.
    Please could you help me, let me know what i have to do.
    Your help will be appreciate.
    Sorry not so good with the English
    PIET DELPORT

  28. Deidre
    Posted March 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I just saw this post. I live in southeast Louisiana, USA and we have an abundance of these particular hawthorne trees. Way down south here we call them Mayhaw trees. The fruits are always ready to harvest late April and early May. We make the BEST jelly, or syrup or wine out of them. They are pretty versatile. If you google ‘mayhaw’ you can find a Louisiana official mayhaw site with all kinds of recipes. They are surely not poisonous…but delicious.

  29. Joumana
    Posted March 4, 2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    @Deidre: How interesting! Will research it more now, did not know this! Thanks!

  30. Park, Bong Ja
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I am looking for dried mayhaw berries, not mayhaw jelly
    If I can buy it , Please let me know.
    Thanks in advance

  31. Posted March 17, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Someone told me I simply had to read this blog, and now I see exactly why! I am definitely bookmarking this great site

  32. Cathy
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    does anyone know where this fruit can be found in Australia.

  33. Joumana
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    @Cathy: I’d ask a nursery the tree will grow in Australia.

  34. Cathy
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Joumana I do hope I can get on.

    Regards
    Cathy

  35. Posted August 19, 2013 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    It’s fantastic that you are getting ideas from this article as well as from our discussion made at this place.

  36. Ida Alamuddin
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana. My twin brother and I grew up in Shemlan Lebanon and we ate za’arour whenever we found them. Yummy.

  37. Joumana
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    @Ida Alamuddin: What a wonderful place to grow up in! I remember the name mentioned a lot growing up; I think we used to go there on Sundays.

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  1. By Hawthorne for the Heart on February 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

    [...] Image credit: Taste of Beirut [...]

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