By Hugh Murphy
Common names: Rose hips, haws,
Rose hips or “haws” are the most commonly consumed part of a plant that is best known for its aesthetic appeal. Today, you are more likely to find roses in a vase at the center of a table than on your dinner plate. There are however, a number of culinary and medicinal uses for rose hips.
The rose plant is a flowering shrub with many small, green leaves sprouting from thorny stems. Rose hips or haws are the “fruits” of the rose plant. Haws are bright red in color and vase-like in shape, becoming ripe after the first frost of the year (E.O.G., 969). They are most visible after the flower petals drop in late summer. Each haw holds a number of small seeds and hairs, which must be removed before consumption (Davidson, 673). Rose plants can produce dozens of hips ranging from pea-sized to crabapple-sized (E.O.G., 969).
Fresh rose hips are semi-sweet in taste, depending on the variety. They can be eaten raw or added to salads once the seeds and hairs are removed. Haws can be boiled down into a sweet syrup or thickened and made into jam.
Rose hip tea is the most common means of consumption. Haws are dried, ground into a powder and steeped in hot water (Niethammer, 78).
Rose hips have been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of ailments. The therapeutic properties of rose hips are likely due to their high levels of vitamin C. A handful of haws contain the same amount of vitamin C as sixty oranges (E.O.G., 969). It is no wonder then, that many American Indian tribes used rose hip tea or syrup to treat respiratory infections (Scully, 203). The Santa Clara Pueblo also used a rose hip salve to directly treat sore mouths (Niethammer, 78).
Wild rose hips also contain significant levels of vitamin A and B. The high vitamin content of rose hips made them an important source of vitamins for American Indians during the winter months when vitamin-rich plants were scarce.
Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
“Rose Hips.” The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Rodale, 1968.
Niethammer, Carolyn. American Indian Food and Lore. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.
Scully, Virginia. A Treasury of American Indian Herbs – Their Lore and Their Use for Food, Drugs, and Medicine. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1970.