Jar Of Red Jelly Surrounded By Mayhaw Fruit
mayhaw use
(Image credit: MaxCab)

If you are from or have family that hails from the Southern United States, it’s very likely you are familiar with cooking with mayhaw from mayhaw recipes that have been handed down for generations. Aside from the tree’s attractiveness to wildlife, mayhaw uses are primarily culinary, although the tree is quite ornamental when in bloom. If you can get your hands on some of this native fruit, read on to find out what to do with mayhaws.

How to Use Mayhaw Fruit

The mayhaw is a type of hawthorn that blossoms with clusters of showy white blooms in the spring on the upright 25- to 30-foot (8-9 m.) high tree. The blossoms yield fruit in May, hence the name. Mayhaws are small, round fruit that, depending upon the variety, may be red, yellow or orange in color. The shiny skin surrounds a white pulp that contains a few tiny seeds. The tree is a member of the family Roasaceae and is indigenous to low, wet areas from North Carolina to Florida and west to Arkansas and into Texas. During Antebellum times (1600-1775), mayhaws were a popular foraging fruit despite their less than hospitable locations in swamps and other boggy areas. Since then, the fruit has waned in popularity in part due to the location of trees and land clearing for timber or agriculture. Some effort has been made to cultivate the trees and U-pick farms are reaping the benefits of the fruits resurging popularity.

What to Do with Mayhaws

Mayhaw fruit is extremely acidic, almost bitter in taste, and, as such, mayhaw uses are primarily for cooked products, not raw. The sourest part of the fruit is the skin so, when cooking with mayhaw, the berries are often juiced with the skin discarded and then used to make jellies, jams, syrups or just mayhaw juice. Traditionally, mayhaw jelly was used as a condiment for game meats, but it can also be used in fruit pies and pastries. Mayhaw syrup is delicious over pancakes, of course, but it also lends itself well over biscuits, muffins, and porridge. Among many old Southern family mayhaw recipes, may even be one for mayhaw wine! Mayhaw fruit can be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week of its harvest.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.