When To Pick Mayhaws: Tips For Harvesting Mayhaw Fruit

Mayhaw Fruit
mayhaw fruit
(Image credit: Leslie Seaton)

Mayhaws are trees in the hawthorn family. They produce small round fruit that look like miniature crabapples. Those harvesting mayhaw fruit don’t chow them down raw but cook them into jams or desserts. If you have mayhaws in your backyard, you might want to get ready for mayhow picking time. Read on for tips on when and how to harvest mayhaw.

Mayhaw Harvest Time

Mayhaws are small trees with rounded canopies that grow wild in the East and Southeast parts of the United States. The mayhaw fruit typically appears on the trees in May. Fruits are the size of cherries and the shape of crabapples, usually colored pink or red. The fruit is edible but not very good eaten right from the tree. However, it makes delicious jellies, jams, desserts and even wine. These days the trees are being cultivated for the mayhaw harvest. Each tree yields a different amount of fruit, but some produce as much as 100 gallons (378 L.) in a single year. If you have mayhaws and want to start harvesting mayhaw fruit, you’ll have many options of how to proceed.

When to Pick Mayhaws

The mayhaw harvest doesn’t begin until the fruit is ripe, and this depends on when the tree flowers. You can begin your mayhaw harvest about 12 weeks after the first blossoms appear. But over 100 cultivars of mayhaw trees have been developed, and each cultivar blossoms at a different time – as early as January and as late as May. That makes it impossible to give a general rule about when to pick mayhaws. Some mayhaws are ready for mayhaw picking in March, others as late as July. Growers often hope for late flowering to avoid the damage frosts do to crops when flowering trees face below-zero temperatures.

How to Harvest Mayhaws

Once it’s time for the mayhaw harvest, you’ll have to decide what system of mayhaw picking you are going to use. Harvesting mayhaw fruit can be time-consuming since many cultivars have fruit that ripen over a week or more. Perhaps the most common way to go about mayhaw picking is to simply let the fruit fall to the ground as it ripens. This mayhaw harvest method works efficiently if you clear and clean the areas under the tree, making pick-up easier. Another way to go about mayhaw picking is called shake-and-catch. Growers lay blankets or tarps under the tree, then shake the trunk until fruits fall. This mimics the way that walnuts are harvested and can be the most efficient way to get fruit off the tree fast.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.