Holiday Firethorn Elixir

Holiday Firethorn Elixir

This time of year brings out an abundance of red berries that are symbolic of the season changing yet again.  Holly, Toyon, Firethorn are a few that come to mind.

While red berries should absolutely be avoided if you are not 120% positive on its identity and whether or not it is safe to consume, some can be quite delightful and packed full of immune boosting properties, antioxidants, and vitamin c. 

The Pyracantha bushes in my yard are currently overflowing with an abundance of Firethorn berries.  Bright red, ripe, and just waiting to be picked and turned into some kind of culinary delight. 

The following recipe holds so much flavor and is just waiting to be the star of your holiday party or even just your cozy night in.

Pyracantha coccinea bush


The Delicious Seasonal Recipe

I first picked a basket full of the little bunches, then separated the berries from the stems.  Next, I rinsed them clean and prepared the other ingredients. 

 Basket full of Firethorn Berries



  • Full pot of water - 10 cups
  • 4-5 cups of fresh picked firethorn berries
  • 1/2 cup dried hawthorn berries (Use 3/4-1 cup if you have fresh)
  • 1 stem of Cedar (Pine or Fir would also be equally delicious and can be substituted here)
  • 1-2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 1-1 1/2 cup of honey



  1. Fill the pot with water and warm on Medium Low for your lovely decoction with the berries.
  2. Add the Firethorn berries, hawthorn berries, cedar, and cinnamon sticks. 
  3. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low for 2 ish hours. 
  4. Strain and mash the berries through the strainer.  (The berries cannot be blended because the seeds should not be consumed.)
  5. Add the honey and warm on low heat while constantly stirring until the honey is well incorporated. 

Serve warm. I recommend serving it in your favorite Christmas mug, then propping your feet up in front of the fireplace while soaking in the darker, cozy season and inhaling the sweet aroma of this concoction. 

Cup full of Firethorn Elixir

Store leftovers in the refrigerator, then stir and reheat to drink.   

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Pyracantha is the Genus of a group of related species. Coccinea is one of several species in the Pyracantha Genus. Firethorn is the general name given to the plant. There are several species in the Pyracantha Genus, but the fleshy part of the fruit in all of them are edible.

The fleshy part of Firethorn Berries is not poisonous. The seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides (much like other fruit in the Rose Family, i.e. Apples, Plums, Apricots), so it is recommended to not to consume the seeds as they are considered mildly poisonous and can cause mild gastro-intestinal problems when eaten in large enough quantities. Cooking the fruit and straining out the seeds is the recommended safe method for consuming firethorn.

Firethorn is native to southeastern Europe and has naturalized to many areas throughout the United States as well as having become a loved addition to landscaping due to it being a woody evergreen shrub with beautiful red-orange berries in the late fall. They are considered good shrubs for a wildlife garden, providing dense cover for roosting and nesting birds, summer flowers for bees and an abundance of berries as a food source. In areas Firethorn has naturalized, it can become invasive and is considered invasive in both California and Georgia.

Pyracantha is suitable for any moderately fertile garden soil in sun or partial shade, including very dry, free-draining soils, and heavy clays, as long as they are not prone to waterlogging. Berry production can be reduced in shady sites, including against north-facing walls.

Simply pull off the ripe berries (or pomes) – individually or in clusters while taking special care to avoid the thorns.

The fleshy fruit in all 7 species of Firethorn Berries in the Pyracantha Genus are edible.

Firethorn Berries are not considered poisonous to dogs even though they contain a small amount of cyanogenic glycosides. A study of dogs and other mammals showed that the animals readily swallowed large amounts of berries when offered and did not show signs of toxicity.

Berries in fire red can be found in both natural areas or gardens and landscapes. It is important to never forage or consume any berries unless you know with absolute certainty that they are safe for human consumption.

The thorns are not considered toxic but can cause inflammation, redness, slight swelling, and itchiness and pain similar to rose thorns if you do get stuck. These symptoms can be uncomfortable but are not dangerous.

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