TEJOCOTE (Hawthorn)

The hawthorn and its varieties belong to the genus Crataegus, composed of species of small trees of the family Rosaceae, native to Mexico and parts of Guatemala and in general of the Andean Zone (areas of mountain and tropical forests).
In our country we have 13 species of hawthorn, the most common, Crataegus pubescens (sinomia Crataegus mexicana) and Crataegus gracilior distributed in mountainous areas, and Crataegus greggiana (red hawthorn) located in North Highlands Region (Coahuila and Nuevo Leon).
The name tejocote comes from the Nahuatl texócotl, hard and acid fruit; called also manzanita or manzanilla.
The tejocotero (tree) grows to a height of 4 to 10 meters; it has spines and oval or diamond shaped leaves, and white flowers. The fruits are globose and apple shaped with a yellow-green color that, when ripe, turns to orange with tiny brown spots, soft, thin skin; its edible pulp is light orange, bittersweet and fragrant, containing four to six small, hard and brown seeds.
Tejocotes are important for their high pectin and vitamin C contents.
The best fruits are obtained in the season from October to January, with the largest production located in the Central Highlands (being Puebla the largest producer, and to a lesser extent, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Mexico City) and the Southern Highlands (Oaxaca) regions.
We include hawthorns in the offering of the Day of the Dead, boiled in water together with other fruits and spices in traditional December punches; when fresh, we consume them as part of the fruits included in the piñatas of that season; as the base of atoles and sweet and spicy sauces. To extend their seasonality, they are cooked in syrup or prepared in jelly, ate and jam.
The high content of pectin in the fruit, when processed, is used by the food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, textile and metal industries.
In traditional medicine, the hawthorn, prepared in infusions, serve as a preventive or to lessen the discomfort of respiratory diseases; tejocotes are useful in digestive diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, amoebas, kidney ailments, to loose weight, improve coronary circulation, moderate contractions in case of tachycardia, and as a diuretic.

Recipes

Dulce de tejocote