Many roadsides in New South Wales and the ACT are full of hawthorn trees. In October they flower in beautiful, bridal like profusion. This resemblance is not coincidental, as there are deep connections between the flowering of the Hawthorne flowers in May and traditions attached to the northern-hemisphere wedding season.
I have had a series of adventures this week. I decided to take Friday off work and to drive down to the Sapphire Coast with my man. One of my goals in life was to drive from Canberra to the Coast by myself. I didn’t get my license until I was 31, and I have had a bit of a fear of driving. My kidlets have been asking me for years to take them to the coast.
All was well as I drove down Brown Mountain (it was so lovely having someone encouraging and supportive by my side as I conquered my fear). That is until we neared Bega and we noticed steam coming out of the bonnet of my trusty 17-year-old Toyota RAV 4. I called the NRMA (I think I am their best customer), the car was towed, a new radiator ordered, and my man’s lovely friends (who I had never met before) came and picked us up. Then the next day, they drove us back to Canberra. (Just quietly, I half wished I could be stuck down there – it is paradise on earth.)
Then on Monday night, we drove back down the Coast again – this time he drove in his ute, and when the radiator was fixed that afternoon, his friends drove me to the mechanics and then I drove back. All by myself. Big, proud moment.
This could have been an awful experience, but it became an adventure. In fact, we didn’t take the main highway down the coast on Monday night – rather the back roads through national parks. We only saw one other car the whole journey. Wow. We did, however, see some spectacular landscapes graced by many flowering hawthorn trees.
Hawthorn trees are a popular hedge plant in the UK. They have thorns which make them impenetrable for cattle. Introduced into Australia they have gone wild. I am fascinated by the powerful folklore around these trees. The flowering trees, for example, in addition to being wedding time are also said to be the time that fairies are about. Yep, you want to be in fairyland then head for flowering hawthorn because if you are lucky you could hear the bells of the Fairy Queen’s horses as she rides by. But beware – if the Queen of Fairies sees you she could take you away forever.
The flowers, leaves and berries are all edible and are said to help the heart. Modern science suggests they are very powerful in helping cardiac problems. Folklore says it is good for healing a broken heart.
I harvested some by the side of the road plants and made this luscious cordial. It took quite a lot of effort, but the heady scent and unusual taste are sure worth it. Try it and see for yourself!
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups of hawthorn flowers (preferably new and not too yellowed)
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon tartaric acid
- Add the sugar and water in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat while stirring to dissolve. Add the lemon and the citric and tartaric acids. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to a boil and cook until syrupy – around five minutes.
- Remove from the stove. Pour in the hawthorn flowers and allow them to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the off – preferably through cotton or muslin fabric as the pollen is very fine.
- Bottle the resulting cordial in sterilised bottles. Drink with sparkling water as part of a spring picnic and enjoy!
Lemon – 30c (if you ask someone will probably gift you one)
Sugar – 60c
Citric acid – 25c
Tartaric acid – 25c
Hawthorn – foraged, free
Total: $1.40. Makes three small bottles.