Where can I find it?
Sea Buckthorn is usually found in coastal areas of the UK but can also be found along roadsides, hillsides and country parks, where it is planted as a native species. Though not common in the UK, in places such as Sweden, it is cultivated and managed commercially for food and beauty products.
The berries ripen in the Autumn and can be found on the plant until the end of Spring the following year, however the best time to harvest them is usually around late August and September. The leaves should be harvested a little earlier in July, to maximise their nutritional benefits.
How to identify Sea Buckthorn
Sea Buckthorn is a shrub which has thorny brown branches and silvery green leaves. It can grow up to four metres in height and can spread to cover large areas. The berries are bright orange to pale yellow and slightly oval-shaped. They have a fine dust like covering which feels slightly gritty to the touch and they grow in clumps along the boughs of the plant. They are soft and fruity smelling but sour to the taste when raw.
It doesn’t have many lookalikes and to the trained eye is easy to distinguish from plants such as Firethorn. Firethorn berries are much rounder and less shiny, without the dusty covering. Firethorn berries are mildly poisonous as their seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, similar to apples, cherries and almonds. They are likely to cause mild gastro-intestinal problems when eaten raw in large quantities, though they are considered edible when processed correctly.
Sea Buckthorn’s berries are usually harvested for processing into a variety of food products such as syrups, compotes, juices and jellies. They have a strong tropical fruity flavour, sour when raw but delicious when balanced with sugar. The leaves can be used for tea.
The fruits have very high levels of Vitamin C and other nutrients, making them also popular for use in natural medicines as well as a healthy food source.
Both leaves and berries are also harvested for use in beauty products, for their high levels of Vitamin E, Linoleic acid, Lycopene, Beta carotene and Palmitic acid.
The berries can be difficult to pick, so sometimes whole branches are cut off and frozen so that they can be removed without bursting them. This is not ideal as it damages the plant for harvesting next year.
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