Deep in the dark water swamps and hammocks of the lower South, down along the sandy riverbanks, grows the wispy, delicate Mayhaw tree. For generations, southerners have made the yearly trek by boat to harvest the floating orange fruit with nets. The fruits are boiled in a kettle until they burst open and release their flavor. The juice is strained to make a beautiful pale coral jelly. The flavor is exquisite, like sweet apple with overtones of mango and an aroma of pineapple. When you can find Mayhaw jelly in elite gift shops or progressive produce stands, it will cost around $6 a pint and is well worth it. The success of modern day Mayhaw growing can be attributed to Sherwood Atkins, famous for “taking the swamp out of the Mayhaw.”
Mr. Atkins spent long days in the Lousiana swamps locating superior varieties of Mayhaw that will survive and thrive in ordinary garden soils.
Mayhaw needs little care: just provide a good vegetable garden soil and fertilizer. You can forget about having to spray or pamper this old swamp treasure. Our trees are grafted on wild Cratageous rootstock. Most Mayhaws need pollinators. They prefer part sun to shade and moist, well-drained soils. Buy two for cross pollination.
Ralph “T.R.” Barnette was Val’s grandfather and a country farmer from Alabama mistakenly stuck in the modern world of suburban Tallahassee. He crammed his 1/4 acre lot full of fruit trees, organic gardens and edible flowers that he used in salads. He made wine and jelly out of everything. A visit to his garden left you with a wealth of knowledge and a little tipsy from tasting his funky wines. His most treasured plant, however, was his beloved Mayhaw tree. What follows is his recipe, which has been handed down to friends and family. T.R. didn’t use Surejell and didn’t think too highly of people who did, so it takes a little longer.
- Wash berries thoroughly. Measure berries to see how much you have. Use a little more than two cups of water to a quart of berries. Bring them to a boil, then cook at lower heat for about 30 minutes or until tender. Let them cool with the lid on.
- Mash up berries. Then strain them, squeezing juice out with a cheesecloth. Refrigerate the juice `cause by then you’re tired. It’ll last a week in the `fridge this way.
- To make jelly (this is the artistic part), pour not more than six cups of juice in a large pot and add a cup of sugar for each cup of juice. Don’t stir after it boils. Boil for about an hour or until it drops off a spoon in two drops instead of one, and then “sheets” together. After it begins to drop off in twos, you watch it very carefully until it sheets. Skim off the foamy stuff on top.
- Pour into sterilized jars. The jars should be hot. Screw on the lids. Let them sit in a cool place until each lid pops. Then you’ll know it has sealed. If one of the jars doesn’t seal, just use that jar first.
- Then clean up the mess you made.
Mayhaws grow to be small trees with a glorious spring blloom that has to be seen to be believed. Scatter them in the woods under light shade for March Magic. Use as part of a mixed border combining with smaller berries and flowers. Use instead of dogwoods, so you’ll get fruit and flowers from the same trees.
«Not sure what to do with Mahaw Trees or how to grow them? Click here for Just the Facts on planting and care.
Mayhaw Trees - Mayhaw Varieties (Crataegus opaca)
Buying and Growing Tips…
Although fond of wet areas, mayhaw will thrive equally well in any good garden soil. Be sure to plant two different varieties as they do need cross pollination to set a crop of fruit. Small growers by nature, they can be set as close as 10 foot apart for hedge rows or 15 foot for specimen trees.
BETSY MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
BIG RED MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
GEORGIA GEM MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
MARLENE MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
MAXINE MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
RELIABLE MAYHAW TREE$45.99 Zone: 7-9
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