YeeHaw for the MayHaw!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

100 Percent Pure Mayhaw Jelly
There's something mighty good going on at the Bird House these days. And -- it's one of the few times I must admit -- where this mighty good stuff did not spring from the grounds of the Bird Back 40. Nope -- didn't come from here. Our fruit trees might be flowering a tad from this early spring. But what we've got didn't come from the Bird Back 40 because -- to be quite honest -- it just doesn't grow here.
I'm talking about the Mayhaw tree. While most fruits and vegetables sold across the good ol' United States of America hail from California -- the same cannot be said about the Mayhaw. It's native to a small stretch of the south -- the swampy parts of the south that is. The Mayhaw tree grows wild in the swamp lands of Louisiana and southern Mississippi -- with parts of northern Florida thrown in for good measure.
Maxine Mayhaw (courtesy Travis Callahan)
The thing is this: If you live in a swampy area of the south? Chances are there's a Mayhaw tree growing nearby.
That jar of jelly pictured above is 100 percent pure, southern grown and made in a country kitchen, Mayhaw Jelly. It comes from the kitchen of Travis and Diana Callahan, straight from a little town called Abbeville, Louisiana. And let me tell you -- from experience I might add -- Mayhaw jelly is one of those "little treasures" that not many people get to enjoy.
Why is that? Well -- for one thing -- the Mayhaw tree isn't widely grown. Secondly, it hasn't been all that long since someone discovered the Mayhaw fruit is not only good for things such as jelly, syrup and wine, it's downright fantasmogoric. I invented that word. It's translation is "mighty good."
Maxine Mayhaw Jelly (courtesy Travis Callahan)
How did I come into this jar of very special Mayhaw jelly? As it turns out? My connection to the Duke Avocado paid a little bit of a dividend. Travis Callahan is a fan of the blog that is Sacramento Vegetable Gardening. He's also a backyard fruit growing enthusiast. And if there's one thing Travis is looking for? It's an avocado tree that can survive the freezing conditions that sometimes grip southern Louisiana. They don't get them often -- but they do get them.
Travis would literally stumble over the blog that is Sacramento Vegetable Gardening one night while searching for an avocado variety that could not only survive freezing conditions, but thrive in them. Since the Duke Avocado, which was borne in ice-cold Butte County, can not only survive but thrive in these conditions, well, count Travis as a might bit interested.
Mayhaw Fruit (courtesy Travis Callahan)
And so -- thanks to the wonders of email and introductions -- Travis and I struck up a conversation. It was during this conversation where I would learn about his website and his absolute love and dedication to the Mayhaw tree. One day I offered Travis a trade: One jar of the moderately famous Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa for a jar of pure Mayhaw Jelly.
He accepted. And I WON. Boy did I win. I mean -- BIG TIME. I should have shipped Travis and his wife a case of salsa for this jelly -- because this jelly is like none other.
Maxine Mayhaw Tree (courtesy Travis Callahan)
The Mayhaw is an early producing tree that produces a fruit very similar to the Manzanita bush here on the west coast. Translated, the Manzanita means "little apple." The Mayhaw produces a fruit similar in appearance. Harvested straight from the tree? I'm told, and I've read, the Mayhaw isn't all that impressive. Perhaps this is the reason it was ignored for so long. Early settlers, I've learned, noticed that Native Americans avoided the Mayhaw. Perhaps this is the reason is took so long to be discovered.
But -- mix Mayhaw fruit with a little bit of sugar -- and something special happens with the chemical reaction. Mayhaw jelly tastes a little bit like strawberry jam. It may look like a tiny apple, but tastes nothing like it. It is indeed unique. Perhaps this is one reason why growers are planting acre after acre of Mayhaw trees.
Ripe Mayhaws (courtesy Travis Callahan)
Jars of pure Mayhaw jelly have been known to command a premium price. Travis tells me that often, the Mayhaw juice is cut with apple juice, which is cheaper, to produce larger batches of jelly. Mixing Mayhaw juice with common apple juice, I'm told, is a crime. Yet it does happen. This is because the demand for Mayhaw jelly, once a deep southern secret, continues to grow.
The best jars of Mayhaw jelly come from a home kitchen. And that's what we have here. I wish I could share this experience with you, but I can't. There just isn't enough Mayhaw jelly to go around. But trust me when I tell you that the Mayhaw tree deserves a spot in in California agriculture. And thanks to the wonders of modern horticulture, it may not be long before that happens.
Mayhaw Jelly and a Hello Kitty Toaster!
Hey, if we can get blueberries to survive and thrive in the Golden State, why not the Mayhaw? Then, and only then, might you get the chance to sample the treasure known as Maxine Mayhaw jelly.
And that's darn good.

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