Drive through southwest Georgia and you'll see lots of signs advertising mayhaw jelly.
To the novice, mayhaw jelly just tastes like glorified apple jelly. But to the expert (and nearly all natives or long-term residences of the mayhaw belt are), a mere insinuation that the flavor is like apple jelly is taken as a personal affront.
The difference is a matter of appreciating the many subtle and complex flavors of mayhaw jelly.
Mayhaws wholesale for $4 to $5 per gallon and retail for $8 to $12 per gallon. And there are only four pounds per gallon. Southwest Georgia has a half-dozen commercial makers and many thousands of home makers of mayhaw jelly.
The trees also have excellent potential as an ornamental. And they supply food for birds. Many song birds and game birds, including turkey, quail and wood ducks, eat the fruits.
Like pine trees and blueberries, mayhaws can be legally planted on cleared wet areas. Many fields in south Georgia contain depressions too wet for row crops, which makes them ideal mayhaw sites.
The main problem with mayhaws has been erratic fruit production because most of the native trees bloom so early.
In 1985, I started testing named mayhaw cultivars. It has been very hard to find cultivars with all the desired attributes, but we have several now that are enormously better than most native trees.
Since certain selections of mayhaws bloom much later than others, if you live in middle or north Georgia, be sure to plant these later blooming types. Later-blooming trees are also of great advantage in south Georgia in years like 1993 and 1996, when we had late freezes.
Here are several of the most promising cultivars, in approximate order of ripening.
'Superspur' blooms early, so it's best adapted to south Georgia. But it's very productive. The fruit shatter when they ripen and are soft.
'T.O. Warren' (also known as 'T.O. Superberry') blooms early, too, so it's best adapted to south Georgia, but is productive. The trees have an excellent peach-tree shape. The fruits are bright red and firm, and they hold on the tree well.
'Saline' blooms late and is productive. The fruit is bright red and firm, with excellent retention on the tree.
'Turnage 57' blooms late and is very productive. The trees are medium in vigor with semiweeping branches. The flowers are pollen-sterile, so the tree must be planted with other late-blooming cultivars for best fruit set. This cultivar is very precocious and will flower and fruit one year after grafting. The fruits are medium size with bright red skin and orange flesh.
'Turnage 88' blooms late and is very productive. The tree is high in vigor and took about eight years to come into heavy production. However, last year it produced more than 10 gallons of fruit. The fruits are medium in size with bright red skin and orange flesh.
Where can you get these trees?
Visit or call your county extension office for a list of mayhaw nurseries. I've sent them current listing of nurseries by electronic mail, and they can make you a photocopy.
You can also pick up a copy of the publication, "Minor Fruits and Nuts in Georgia." It has several pages on mayhaws.
Mayhaws grow well in wet areas and will even survive in flooded areas, much like cypresses. They also thrive on upland sites with irrigation.
If you're interested in commercial mayhaw production, contact your county extension office, and I'll send them more information for you.
(Gerard Krewer is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)