Introducing the Mayhaw
Introducing the Mayhaw
The mayhaw, once a staple food of the South, experienced a falling off in popularity within the fifty years. Primarily, this was caused by the loss of habitat. Since it thrives in moist, shaded areas, overdevelopment removed many mayhaw sources. However, this delicious fruit, similar in taste and texture to cranberries or small cherries, is making a huge comeback in produce circles.
Southern families would commonly go on mayhaw picking excursions, spending the day picking mayhaws from trees or even in boats along creek or river edges and then enjoying a picnic. One of the major uses of the fruit was mayhaw jelly, and families would pick enough so they could have this delicious jelly all year long. These excursions dwindled as mayhaw sources disappeared, but with the increasingly popularity of this fruit comes another wave of appreciation. In fact, communities in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana have mayhaw festivals every year!
Like anything in economics, when you have more demand than supply you should always invest and that’s what many farmers are realizing in the South. Awareness and demand for mayhaw fruit and jelly has increased dramatically in the last two decades, but the number of farms growing them has not kept up. The fruit and jelly sell for a premium price and are not difficult to grow, so many Southern farmers are establishing mayhaw farms, cultivating the fruit to grow on contained farms rather than wildly on creek sides or near swamps. When it was originally cultivated, farmers would pilot boats beneath mayhaw trees on rivers and then shake the branches. The small fruit would plop down into the boat, making it easy to collect. The fruit almost picked itself.
Getting to Know the Mayhaw
So what does the mayhaw look like? It is a small fruit, ripening to a half inch to slightly under an inch in diameter. Growing on trees that are hardy and long-lasting, these fruit typically ripen in May. The name comes from this, May being the time of year ideal for picking and “haw” comes from the hawthorn tree on which it grows.
By far the most popular way to enjoy mayhaws is through mayhaw jelly, a condiment popular in the South for centuries. Typically this fruit is enjoyed in processed form. Besides jelly, you can make syrup, jam, pie fillings, even wine. With its popularity growing, the uses abundant and the availability increasing, you can be sure you’ll be hearing more about the mayhaw very soon!