hawthorn rose syrup

Spiced Hawthorn-rose syrup

Photos by Marcia Coppess

Two wonderful things happened in the last month, and they both occurred over the same weekend. The first was the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. I’m sure if you’re up to date with my ramblings on Facebook you got sick of reading about it. A 3-day weekend gathering of Herbalists from all over the country (and beyond) in the mountains of Arizona. You might be picturing a bunch of long flowy-tie dye dresses and long hugs, but let me tell you folks, herbalists really know how to party. After days of classes, plant walks, interesting conversation, night descends and the bands roll in and the dancing starts. Herbalists, so used to being looked at strangely anyway (really, who else would stop and pet a tree in the middle of a city?), often lack the inhibitory function that prevents people from trying to embarrass themselves in public. In other words, when it comes to dancing, we just do it however we want to. Which turns out to be really fun, especially when people are handing around their home made infused concoctions. We danced late into the night, then woke up early for more classes. Classes on things like the Greek system, on Seizure disorders, on drug-herb interactions, on the chakra-endocrine link, on specific medicines, on aphrodesiacs.

Photo by Rosalee De La Foret

There was a marketplace where those of us vending set up our wares, where I met a bunch of really amazing people doing truly original things: Mountain Rose Herbs (which, if you don’t know about, you really should as their prices and quality are amazing); Learning Herbs (which, if you want to learn about herbalism this is surely the place to go. And also, I *may* have been interviewed for Herb Mentor Radio next month in the first ever interview done over a drink.); Blue Turtle Botanicals (which, if you don’t know Darcey and her fine creations then you are surely missing out); Super Salve Co (I may have spent a small fortune on face creams and masks); Winter Sun Trading Co (Turquoise earrings, juniper beads, magical Arizona herbalist who’s been in practice forEVER). I was hawking my wares- some hand made incense blends, some local flower elixirs and pine pitch salves and various things that are Southwest-ish. I may have sold out of almost everything within 24 hours (A few things back up in my Poppyswap shop HERE). It was wonderful to get to hang out with friends (like Rosalee, and Holly and Stephany and Kiva and Renee), learn as much as one can stuff in a rusty brain as possible, and dance, and dance, and dance…

Photos by Stephany Hoffett

The second good thing that happened to me was Lisa Rose Starner and her answering of a ‘hawthorn’ cry that went out on the interwebs. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, and gathered a coupla bags of hawthorn berries for me before she flew out. Friends, when you’re as obsessed with these little faerie plants as I am, and someone you don’t get to hang out with nearly often enough brings you a bag of them, you might get a little teary. I’m not saying its, like, a requirement, but am warning you that it could happen.

And when it does happen (because, come on, we all get overwhelmed with joy about some things), the best thing to do is to sit and stare at them for hours, trying to decide what to do with them. And then upon realising that if you don’t use them they’ll just dry up and become like all the other hawthorn berries you have, you’ll leap into action, becoming a whir of flailing arms and cinnamon dust and droplets of spiced rum.

And when you’re done, and the smoke clears and the limbs settle, you’ll be left with this. Which, when it comes down to it, is as pretty darn perfect as a summer-fall syrup can get. Spicy, from the rum, sweet from the sugar and the hawthorn, tangy from the rosehips and lemon. As for what to do with it: drizzle it over pound cake, or add it to sparkling water with a dollop of cream (what I was drinking all day yesterday), over late-season peaches, or in a heart-healthy cocktail. In a cup of hot tea for a crying friend, or in your mouth directly for a broken heart. And what it does? Oh you guys… there are a million

things one could say about hawthorn. Check out those links, and let it suffice for me to say right now that, when I describe it to clients, I describe it as a strong hand at the back of your ribcage, right behind where your heart sits in your chest cavity. Physically, it strengthens the heart and circulation, but emotionally, it provides that strength that one needs to face the world open-eyed, open-hearted and a little more awe-struck than usual.

Hawthorn-rose spiced syrup. 

2 cups hawthorn berries

1/2 cup rosehips

4 cups water

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

2 cups sugar

1 cup spiced rum

juice of one lemon

Put everything but the rum, lemon and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for an hour, then leave to stand for another 2 hours. Remove from the heat, strain out all the plant bits, stir in the sugar and lemon. You might need to heat it again to dissolve it- that’s ok. Taste. It should be sweet, slightly tangy, a bit thick. Stir in the rum. Bottle and label (seriously- label it, otherwise in a month you’ll be like ‘what the hell is this again?’ and it’ll never get used).


PS. For another great write up of the conference, check out Stephany’s blog here.


  • http://www.rowanandoak.com Amber

    This sounds amazing!

    • fairybekk

      Thanks Amber!

  • Carly

    Tasty over dessert and fruit? Yes please. Directly in your mouth to appease a breaking heart? Yes again! Like “a strong hand at the back of your ribcage, right behind where your heart sits in your chest cavity”? I’ll take a bottle! Or 3.

    Once again, Ms. Altman, you have outdone yourself.

    • fairybekk

      I’ll bring you some this weekend :). Heart you Carl!

  • Anita White

    I appreciate the Hawthorn recipe! Your story was interesting and the photos showed some of what it’s like. I wondered about going so maybe next year based on your great recommendation! TY, Anita

  • Brooke

    I know this might sound sacrilegious, but can this recipe be done with dried berries? I don’t have a source for fresh but I’m totally interested in preparing this treat. And if you are selling this I would be interested in buying a bottle.

    • fairybekk

      Oh god, not sacrilegious at all- you can totally do it with dried. I do have some for sale if you’re still interested- $15 for 2oz bottle. Just email me rebecca kingsroadapothecary com.

      • gwendolyn

        I would like a bottle, too, if you still have some available. Sent the email to the above address already!

        Your blog has become one of my special treats. I just love your writing and recipes! <3

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    • Emily

      Can you use raw honey instead of sugar?

      • fairybekk


  • Christopher

    Anything one might need to know on harvesting the berries? I believe this post plus one of the links in it just answered a question about a patch of smaller trees in an unkept area of a park (i.e,, what are those trees with red berries, and can you eat them?).

    • fairybekk

      Hmm, stay away from the thorns- don’t dive your head in quickly or anything like that. And please please make sure you’ve got correct ID. Then just go for it in whatever way you want :). Pick them like you’re picking blackberries- that is, greedily and heartily.

      • Christopher

        So….looking up the tree, I’m seeing a variety of leaf shapes from ovoid to lobed (the trees I’ve seen here are lobed and symmetrical), but with the same fruit and thorns. Are there any trees that are easy to falsely identify as hawthorn?

        • fairybekk

          I don’t know, Chris- it depends on your area. I think, if it has spikes and hawthorn-like berries, you’re best off taking a sample, and lots of photos, then going home and researching all your local hawthorn species to see if its one of them. My friend in Colorado has a magic hawthorn tree near her house that doesn’t have normal hawthorny leaves, but it’d definitely hawthorn…

  • http://www.QMumu.com muwgli

    I have a few questions
    one bottle, how many liters?
    to strain: just sift, and throw away the plant materials, or put the liquid in a special strainer where the berries get crushed to a pulp? and use everything but the peels from the berries?
    IT IS HEAVENLY TASTY, just what i needed for those gloomy days

    • fairybekk

      Hi Muwgli, I’m sorry- I don’t know exactly how much it makes as I poured it into a lot of little bottles to send to people, and kept a lot for myself in different bottles. It makes a lot, or plenty. I just sift and throw away the plant materials in this case. In the case of tinctures I usually crush it to a pulp, but not with this syrup. Hope that helps; sorry I couldn’t be more specific.

  • lisa.rose.starner@gmail.com

    love you, love your musings. i don’t stay on top of my readings as much as i should. <3 :)

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