Sea Buckthorn berries, or Sea Berries Hippophae, Hippophae rhamnoides (Elaegnaceae)
There's nothing like foraging for your own wild berries, especially when it's combined with a walk along the coast, plus they're a nutrient rich super fruit! Even the colour of sea buckthorn berries are a vibrant pick-me-up.
Where do sea buckthorn berries grow?
Here in Western Europe you can find them along the coast and on sand dunes. They also grow all along the Atlantic coasts of Europe, Central Europe and North Europe and are present and native in Asia, China, Mongolia, Siberia and Russia.
They've been introduced in Canada (Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan), and exist as experimental crops planted in Arizona and Neveda. I know of several farms in the UK growing cultivated varieties, some of which are from wild seeds.
When to harvest sea buckthorn berries?
Sea buckthorn berries are ready to harvest and pick from late summer to autumn and in some areas they can still be picked through winter and after the first frost.
Harvesting times do depend on the variety, but think of spring as the pollinating season and the berries coming later in the year.
Why are sea buckthorn berries good for you?
These small, bright orange sea buckthorn berries are so good for you! They mobilise high levels of vitamin C - about 12 times more than oranges and have more beta-carotene than carrots. They have a fantastic range of vitamins including A for teeth and bones, B1, B2, B6 and B12, vitamin E for red blood cells, K for blood clotting and to stop bleeding, numerous minerals and omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 oils for healthy skin.
Traditionally sea buckthorn berries, leaves and seeds have been used to prevent aging, treat skin problems and promote healthy hearts.
Sea buckthorn berries also contain antioxidants that help protect the body and strengthen the immune system as well as fibre to support healthy gut bacteria.
How to identify sea buckthorn
Sea buckthorn can grow up to 10 metres tall and can form as a dense shrubby, thickets that are hard to penetrate. Thorny, with long, untoothed silvery-green leaves, the orange berries nestle close the stem, but only on the female plants. Sea buckthorn flowers in spring with tiny, greenish male and female flowers.
What is the flavour of sea buckthorn berries?
Tangy, tart, sour, with a hint of bitterness at the end. I find it far more flavoursome than lemons and more versatile and giving in recipes. See my recipes for sea buckthorn curd cup cakes.
How to harvest sea buckthorn berries?
These gems of tangy flavour don’t give them selves up easily. Nestled tightly to thorny branches and ready to burst forth, quite literally, from their tree. They demand respect and careful picking.
There’s an art to capturing the juice of Sea buckthorn berries, and you basically have two choices.
- Full of juice and a small black pip, if you pick them too late you’ll only be left with orange stains and empty, juicy fingers. If you catch them early enough, you can twist the berries off the branches, collecting them in a container that will hold any seeping juice.
- The second option is to use secateurs (pruning scissors) and snip off abundant berry branches and freeze them. Once frozen, it is a lot easier to remove the berries from the branches, though care still needs to be taken around the thorns.
How to use sea buckthorn berries?
You an use the juice diluted with water, in cocktails or numerous recipes. Some of my favourite culinary creations with sea buckthorn berries are;
- Sea buckthorn juice
- Sea buckthorn curd
- Sea buckthorn curd cup cakes
- Sea buckthorn thick, syrupy, syrup
- Sea buckthorn and ginger frozen cheesecake
- Sea buckthorn and carrot cake
As a wild cook, sometimes I hit upon creating a new recipe that works first time, I mean, really works. This recipe was one of those. It uses Alexander seeds (Smyrnium olusatrum) which is one of my favourite wild spices. Meanwhile, here's my Alexander seed bread recipe, while we're at it!
Alexander seeds has an unusual bitter, peppery flavour which balance the wonderfully deep chocolate tone of these raw truffles perfectly. They can be made in an instant too.
I start teaching alexander seeds on my foraging courses from August through to Winter. I love individually wrapping them as tasters for course participants, ok, my wrapping isn't brilliant but the taste is pretty good! Alexanders are a member of the umbelliferae family and must be identified properly.
Recipe for Alexander Seed and Cacao Truffles
- 250 g dates (pitted)
- 3 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 3 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 dessertspoon ground alexander seeds*
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp blackberry cordial (optional)
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp ground alexander seeds
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or by-hand. I tend to do this by hand by roughly chopping the dates and firmly massaging with the rest of the ingredients until combined. You can also heat the chopped dates in the oil first and soften them that way. Break off pieces and roll into 18 balls.
Finely grind the coating in a seed or coffee grinder and roll the balls in the mixture. Keep in the fridge and use within a week – they won’t go off, but the truffles will harden if you keep them much longer.