Saturday, January 8, 2011

Crataegus pubescens, C. mexicana, Tejocote

According to Wikipedia, the name of this plant is Crataegus mexicana, not Crataegus pubescens as this sign at the UC Botanical Garden indicates. But who cares? "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And indeed, this small tree is in the rose family and the fruit smells like a cross between a rose and an apple, also both in the rose family.

Tejocote is an important fruit in traditional Mexican celebrations. It is the main flavor in the hot juice drink (Ponche Villa) served in December. The fruit is also used as an offering on the Day of the Dead. They even make a rosary out of it. So, when Mexicans moved to California, of course they wanted to continue the tradition. But the tree wasn't growing here, and the Department of Agriculture was worried about pests that could stowaway on the fruit if it was imported. Thousands of pounds of illicit fruit were confiscated year after year. Until Jaime Serrato got the bright idea to grow the fruit in this country. So now it is more available here and everyone is happy. I am going to have to check Berkeley Bowl to see if they have it.

Tejocote has a high pectin content, so it would make a great addition to jam. The pectin is extracted in large quantities to use in the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and textile industries. The wood is hard and is used to make tool handles.

In fruit now at the UC Botanical Garden. In the Mexican bed near the entrance.

1 comment:

Kristin Kulman said...

My husband is from Michoacan. As this tree has thorns, it was used as a perimeter barrier around properties, or fields. Piles of fruits ripen and drop along the hedgerow. He told me that one of his most favorite preserves are made from the tejocote. The harvested fruit is "bletted", and afterwards made into preserves, it contains pectin. Or, you can eat them out of hand, they are small, and selection is important, look for the juiciest, they tend to be dry. It used to be common to use them to fill pinatas. And they are popular candied in syrup. The fruit is aromatic, and it's nice to simmer them in water, and then make tea. The Christmastime drink, ponche, is made of a mixture of simmered fruits (recipes vary, but usually with guava, sugar cane, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, tejocote, and pineapple). Once this cools, most people add alcohol (usually rum or tequila). Like other hawthorns, it has benefits for the circulation system and the heart. In Mexico, there is a company selling products that use the tejocote root. As herbal medicines go, it seems like it is pretty strong,