Article by Tobie Blanchard, LSU AgCenter
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, but 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 No. 1 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 said he often is 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 said he is seeing interest in mayhaws rise.
“Every year the demand for mayhaws increases, and it looks like next year will be a big year,” Lord said.