How Do I Choose the Best Hawthorn Fruit?

G. D. Palmer

Hawthorn fruits are small red pomes that are similar in structure to apples but are often mistaken for berries. These fruits are used both in food and in herbal health supplements. The best fresh hawthorn fruit is bright or dark red, yields slightly to the touch and shows no spotting or mold. If you are choosing a herbal remedy that contains hawthorn fruit, the best ones are those that have been verified for quality by a regulating body such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Hawthorn fruits are often mistaken for berries.
Hawthorn fruits are often mistaken for berries.

Herbal supplements that contain hawthorn fruit can be used to improve blood circulation, blood pressure and heart function. This type of fruit reduces blood cholesterol in animals that have been fed a high-cholesterol diet. It also might be useful for treating anxiety.

In natural medicine, hawthorn fruit can be used dried and whole, dried and powdered or as an extract. Capsules that contain hawthorn powder provide an easy way to consume this fruit. Choose supplements that have been approved as safe by a regulating body. In countries that have poor regulation of herbal supplements, hawthorn supplements might be adulterated with other substances, contain inconsistent amounts of fruit or be manufactured using unsafe techniques.

Common hawthorn is also known as Crataegus monogyna or single-seeded hawthorn. This member of the rose family grows to a height of 16.5 to 50 feet (about 5 to 14 meters). Originally native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa, common hawthorn grows in most sunny, temperate climates.

Hawthorn fruit, also called a haw, is oval in shape, bright to dark red in color and about 0.4 inches (1 cm) in length. These fruits ripen in mid-autumn. They tend to be relatively firm to the touch, because a large seed makes up much of the fruit's volume. When choosing fresh hawthorn fruits, avoid fruit that is green, orange or light red in color, as well as very hard or soft specimens. Older fruit might shrivel around the seed.

Fresh haws are traditionally made into jelly, jam, syrup or other prepared foods, rather than being eaten as they are. Hawthorn fruit also can be used to flavor brandy or make wine. The sugar, heat and yeast that are used to prepare haws might slightly reduce these fruits' health benefits but does make them more palatable. Fresh hawthorn fruit will keep for as long as two weeks in a cool, dry location, and it can be dried or frozen.

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