What the heck is a mayhaw?
I’ve learned so many new words since moving to Louisiana. Lagniappe (a little something extra), coolie (not even certain how to spell that one – couldn’t find it in the dictionary, but it’s basically a drainage ditch), and mayhaw, just to name a few.
I remember my first trip to the farmers’ market here in Lake Charles. A sweet woman proudly stood behind her display of jams and jellies. I saw Mayhaw Jelly. I’d never heard of a mayhaw. I asked, “What’s a mayhaw?” I think she told me it’s some kind of berry. I guess that answer must have satisfied my curiosity at the time. Naturally, I bought some mayhaw jelly. It’s hard to describe the taste. Sweet is all I can come up with.
Five years later, and I still didn’t really know what a mayhaw was. Does it grow on a tree or a bush? What does a mayhaw look like and taste like?
So when I saw advertisements for the Starks Mayhaw Festival this past weekend, I thought, Here’s my chance to find out what a mayhaw is.
Starks is a teeny little town west and a bit north of Lake Charles, near the Texas border, about a 40 minute drive. When we saw the carnie rides, we knew we’d found the place. The festival is a small affair, but not lacking in interesting sights.
This dog apparently sells ride tickets.
How many tickets ya want, lady, she seemed to bark. If they’d had my favorite ride, the Scrambler, I might have bought some. We called it the Merry Mixer when I was a kid. But they didn't have it.
Then I saw this woman carrying the cutest monkey. She said he’s a marmoset. He was shy and the camera seemed to scare him. I could only take his photo if I petted his head at the same time.
Several vendors at the festival sold various jellies, including, of course, mayhaw.
But I prefer jams. We found only one vendor who sold mayhaw jam. His name is David Griffis from Buna, Texas, and he told me everything I wanted to know about mayhaws. They are similar but somewhat smaller than a crabapple, so they do grow on trees. And I assume they are quite tart like crabapples. Mr. Griffis says he uses four cups of sugar for every six jars of jelly. He gave us a sample of the mayhaw jam. It’s good. Sweet. And he makes a mean blackberry jam, too. We bought a jar of each.