Thursday, 12 January 2012

Hawthorne and Weeds....

Hawthorne Blossom by Jenny Mackness
May Blossom  Jenny Macness
I was called away for granny duty this week, so didn't make the urban farm. It's ok - I'm a volunteer but I'm beginning to get withdrawal symptoms. One of our more reliable team members told me that he'd spent the morning weeding around a hawthorne tree that's near the path at the edge of the main vegetable growing area. The tree was choked up with quite a range of weeds - couch grass, docks,dandelions and anything else that could get in there. It really isn't the best spot for a tree, but it does add its own beauty to that area and we've all felt we'd rather keep it despite the inconvenience and weeding problem.
Hawthorn is one of our oldest native trees which might explain why we all feel so protective towards it. It also has an interesting folk history. Apart from being closely connected with fairies it was strongly associated with fertility and sexual abandonment . The common name for Hawthorn is the May Tree. Its blossoms appear in time for the May Day celebrations when people and houses were decorated with may blossoms and local processions celebrated the May Queen. Cutting may blossom symbolised the beginning of new life and the onset of the growing season. The maypole is, of course, a phallic symbol and maypole dancing is symbolic of renewed life and sexual union. According to Glennie Kindred it was the custom in some parts of the British Isles for young men to erect a may tree outside the home of their sweetheart - which has all the potential for being extremely embarassing - I suspect size really did matter.... 
I didn't know that another name for the Hawthorn is the "Bread and Cheese Tree" and that you can eat the young leaves and leaf buds. They have a sweet nutty flavour and can be added to salads along with the flower buds. I must remember to try that in May.

If you're interested in becoming a volunteer at the urban farm, come along any Tuesday for a chat. We usually start at 10.00 and break at 12.30 for a free lunch ( one of the volunteers perks) at Foundation House. 

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