Delicious, “Invasive” Hawthorn Ketchup

This spicy berry ketchup invades your tummy!

As most of our readers know, here at Invironment, we are staunchly pro-weed. We’d even go so far as to call them a great untapped resource that could help feed people:

We tend to think of “weeds” as herbaceous little guys who spring up uninvited between your corn and tomatoes. However, there is an entire philosophical category we also include under this umbrella that features lots and lots of plant forms from herb to tree, and it carries quite a bit of controversy: I’m talking about the idea of “Invasive Species.”

The idea that an entity can be “Invasive” is a relatively modern concept, dependent upon human-centric categories. A stunning article from the September issue of Harper’s connects the dots between the proponents of “Invasive Species” theory and… wait for it… Monsanto:

Within a year, Clinton signed Executive Order 13112, creating the National Invasive Species Council “to prevent the introduction of invasive species and provide for their control and to minimize the economic, ecological, and human health impacts that invasive species cause.” Among the founding members of the council’s advisory committee was Nelroy E. Jackson, a product-development manager and weed scientist for Monsanto who had helped to develop Roundup formulations specifically for “habitat-restoration markets” — that is, for eradicating invasives.

It gets pretty crazy, and it turns out that the whole “War on Invasives” is an excellent way for Monsanto and Bayer and other companies to sell more poison, this time for a “noble” cause.

I mean, glyphosate and its poisonous cousins are nasty stuff (read the article!), and dumping it onto a patch of “Invasives” does more than eradicate the target plants: it also impacts the entire environment in which it is introduced. The subject is considerably complex, and slightly peripheral to our concerns at the moment. However, it illustrates a principle we’re happy to push at Invironment, which is, instead of dumping herbicides on something, can we figure out a way to use it?

Let’s take Hawthorn as an example.

Here in King Co., Washington, Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is considered a “weed of concern.” In other places, however, it is considered a full-on Invasive, subject to herbicide application.

But you guys, Hawthorn is awesome!

It’s in the Rosaceae family, same as apples (and yes, roses). It’s a super-heart healthy medicinal with some amazing (clinically tested) cardiovascular effects. Even more importantly (from the Invironment standpoint), it’s a super-delicious wild food source! It’s not too great raw, but when cooked, it has a delightful apple-like flavor, perfect for spreads, jams, and sauces.

Before we begin, I should note that the seeds of hawthorn are mildly toxic, moreso in quantity. So don’t eat the seeds.

Don’t kill your hawthorn with poison. Instead, use this recipe to make a fairly quick and easy savory ketchup, which will amaze and delight your friends. While we’re at it, let’s toss in a nod to the similarly categorized “Invasive” Mountain Ash/Rowan (Sorbus spp.). You can eat the berries, so why not toss some in?

There are trees full of delicious ketchup growning in the woods, and people are trying to poison them!


  • 1 cup hawthorn berries, destemmed.
  • 1/3 cup mountain ash berries, frozen (freezing makes them sweeter).
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (plus some additional on-hand for extra oomph).
  • 1/2 cup apple juice.
  • 1 tbsp salt.
  • 1/2 tbsp allspice.
  • 1/2 tbsp nutmeg.
  • spicy ground chile pepper (your mileage may vary).
  1. Toss your berries in a saucepan with the vinegar. Some little stems are OK — they’ll come out later:
Pretty red hawthorn and yellow mountain ash berries!

2. Simmer for 25–30 minutes, until the skin of the berries starts to split. Now it’s time to get the seeds out of the mix. I use a handy-dandy food mill, but you could also press through a sieve or use a cheese-cloth to strain the pulp.


You can add some more apple cider vinegar to help wash the pulp through as needed; it’ll cook out during the next step.

3. Add the pulpy goodness back to the saucepan and add the rest of your ingredients.

4. Simmer it down until it thickens to the right consistency for your tastes. Add enough chile to give it as much of a kick as you like. Play around with the flavors you prefer! You could add brown sugar, or honey, if you want it sweeter. You could add tamari or fish sauce if you want something more savory. Have fun!

Should fill a 9 oz jar with a little left over

Guys, this stuff is delicious. You can dip fries into it, use it on sandwiches and burgers, use it as the base for an amazing salsa. You can put it in mason jars and can it. You can add it to marinara sauce. If you like a little more bitterness, you can up the rowan berry to hawthorn ratio. The possibilities are endless. I plan on making a ton of this and giving it away over the holidays.

Hawthorn trees are incredibly prolific. We could all be making easy ketchup to share with one another instead of spraying poison all over the place.