Charles and Nelda Hutchins have been making mayhaw jelly in their Grant Fruit Processing facility for 12 years. The couple buys mayhaw berries from growers in Louisiana and neighboring states, but they have never seen a mayhaw season this bad.
“Normally we buy 30,000 to 50,000 pounds. From this year’s crop we got almost 2,500 pounds.” Nelda Hutchins said.
In East Feliciana Parish, Don Lord has several mayhaw orchards. He sells his crop to the Hutchinses and says a late freeze wiped out his berries.
“The cold snaps are probably the biggest enemy we have, and the farther south you are, the more advantage you have,” Lord said.
Lord also is a distributor of the Hutchinses’ products and estimates he has “sold more mayhaw jelly than anyone in the universe.”
Despite the down year, there is still jelly to be had. Recently, the Hutchinses were making a batch of mayhaw jelly from the few berries they were able to get from Texas and Georgia.
They typically sell more jelly at Christmas than any other time of the year. However, with the short supply of mayhaws, they don’t expect to have any mayhaw jelly around by the end of the year.
Their Springhill Jelly brand also has muscadine, blueberry and other flavors, but mayhaw jelly is their best seller.
“Well, probably the Number One thing in the South is nostalgia,” Nelda Hutchins said. “They remember going into the woods and picking up mayhaws, and grandma or mama made them some jelly. And it was the best jelly in the world.”
Lord is often asked what mayhaw jelly tastes like. “I tell them that is the thing about the mayhaw: it’s unique and you can’t tell anybody what it tastes like.”
The mayhaw has a loyal following. Lord is one of about 100 growers. He and the Hutchinses are members of the Louisiana Mayhaw Association, a group dedicated to educating the public about mayhaws and helping mayhaw growers.
Lord is seeing interest in mayhaws rise. “Every year the demand for mayhaws increases, and it looks like next year will be a big year.”
This year could have been a big year. The Hutchinses received a record number of calls from people looking for mayhaw products.
“We also sell a lot of juice to the jelly makers that don’t have the facilities that we have,” Charles Hutchins said.
LSU AgCenter family and consumer science agent Quincy Cheek also gets a lot of calls from people looking for mayhaws and mayhaw products.
She says there is more to the berry than just jelly. “There are different things you can do with it. Some of the people do ice cream. They make syrup with it. They do mayhaw vinaigrette.”
The tart, red berry also can be used in baked goods.