Roadside vendors occasionally have signs advertising their sale of mayhaw jelly. There are even Mayhaw festivals in Hull-Daisetta, Texas (May 2-4 2013); El Dorado, Ark.; Marion, La.; Starks, La.; and Colquitt, Ga. What’s all the fuss about?
Mayhaw is the name given to a group of fruit species common to wetlands throughout the southern U.S. You can find them growing in the moist soil in river and creek bottoms under hardwood trees. The name “mayhaw” was given because the fruit ripens in late April through May. Lots of mayhaw fruit is also found in bayous around the Texas-Louisiana border and around Caddo Lake. Some folks use boats to collect the sought-after berries out of the water.
The mayhaw looks like a small crabapple or cherry. The tree is a Hawthorne with its fruits ranging in color from yellow to pink to dark red. The average size of the fruit is 1 inch or less in diameter. Orchards can be found that grow “improved” mayhaws. This beauty is gaining popularity with foodies all over the nation. It has made its way from the swamp to cultivated fields and commercial orchards in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. The mayhaw is normally a large shrub or a small tree growing 20-30 feet at maturity.
The mayhaw has clusters of white flowers on its canopy in the spring. They like our slightly acidic soil. Give your mayhaw a location with lots of sun and a minimum of weeds or grass. Add compost or manure and loosen the soil to 8 inches or so. As with any tree, plant in a hole two times larger than the root ball. Backfill the hole, mulch, water two to three times a week, but make sure the soil is draining well.
There is a Louisiana Mayhaw Association that was formed in 1995 to promote a positive image and wider acceptance of mayhaws and mayhaw products. They are doing a bang-up job. You can contact them at mayhaw.org to enter cooking contests or for information on the plant. They would be able to steer you to a stellar mayhaw jelly recipe. Consider using mayhaw as flavoring, butter, jam, sauces, pie filling, coffee cakes, ice cream and wine, according to the association. Good eats.
Joette is an avid gardener and prides herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at (409) 832-6222. Her e-mail is joreger [at] msn [dot] com.