If you’re already bored of açai berries in your smoothie bowl and gojis in your granola, then it’s time you met the sea buckthorn berry – the latest superfood golden child to enter the culinary and beauty scenes. And it’s quite literally a golden child. The tiny berries have a deep orange skin and a bright citrusy, pulpy flesh.
Where did this guy turn up?
The sea buckthorn berry grows mostly in the cooler climates of Northern Europe, Asia and parts of Canada. Not one to be too demanding about its environment, this hardy shrub quite happily makes its home on sandy slopes, even tolerating salty sea breezes. It was even used on the dunes of the East Lothian coast of Scotland as a hardy windbreaker. The bushes bloom with small yellow flowers in spring and ripen with hundreds of tiny (think 6 to 9mm) berries in the Northern Autumn seasons from August to December.
Known as ‘the lemon of the north’, the sea buckthorn berry’s flavour is said to be rather tart and citrusy, with a delicate sweetness once your palate becomes familiar with its profile. But eating them raw can be too tangy and, to some, unpalatable. So, it’s definitely the kind of berry you give to your toddler and film for your Insta-stories.
Tiny but mighty
This superfood may be tiny in size, but packs a mighty punch – in more ways than one.
Harvesting them is an interesting process. As the name warns you, the berries cluster around long, protruding thorns. These thorns are so daunting that the best harvesting practice is actually to let the branches freeze and then to shake the berries off to avoid unwanted body piercings. All this rigmarole means they can easily cost you around R230 for about 450g.
But they do offer a powerhouse of desirable nutrients:
· Crazy amounts of Vitamin C – about 9 to 12 times that of oranges.
· B12 – this one’s a biggie, as it’s most commonly found in animal products, so you can imagine how excited the vegans and vegetarians are.
· Omega – not just one of them, but one of the only known plants to contain all four (if you know your healthy oils, you’ll know it’s a great stimulator of collagen production).
Fun fact: sea buckthorn products were used in the diet of Soviet astronauts, according to Berries for Africa.
Now how do I use sea buckthorn?
Think of sea buckthorn as a cross between a gooseberry and a granadilla in terms of foodie applications. Chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants chefs across America and Europe are raving about this berry’s versatility as being akin to that of an apple because of the many varieties available – over 20 – ranging in acidity from barely anything to practically mouth-puckering.
Here are just some of the ways you could use sea buckthorn in your cooking:
(should you be able to get hold of it on our shores)
· Make a tangy jam.
· Use instead of vinegar in a more citrusy salad dressing.
· As a tart au jus for savoury dishes, or coulis for desserts (think ice cream or fruit salad).
· Make a chutney of sorts for curries.
· Of course, the freeze-dried powder can be added to smoothies too.
Until the berries become more available on our shores, you can indulge in the beauty benefits instead and enjoy the facial oil available from online wellness stores.