What is Seabuckthorn?
Seabuckthorn is a thorny fruit tree with vibrant orange berries that grow in clusters clinging close to the branch. Naturally occuring in numerous European and Asian countries, seabuckthorn is a relative of the native buffaloberry. Historically, all parts of the plant— berries, leaves, and bark— have been used for their nutritional benefit. Despite its past centuries of popularity, seabuckthorn was only introduced to Canada in recent decades.
Seabuckthorn is not to be confused with buckthorn. Though they have similar names and both bear a small fruit, they are not closely related. Unlike seabuckthorn, buckthorn berries are inedible, and in most places the buckthorn plant is considered invasive.
Seabuckthorn is native to Siberia, Finland, India, Germany, Mongolia and numerous other European and Asian countries. The berries, leaves and bark have been used for centuries. Applications have ranged from the food industry, both human and pet, to cosmeceuticals, neutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Ghengis Khan is said to have fed seabuckthorn berries to his army and the leaves to his horses to keep both healthy prior to battle. Tibetan medicinal texts from as early as 600 A.D. refer to the herbal remedies made of seabuckthorn for skin and digestive disorders.
More recent applications have been diverse including drinks for athletes in Olympics, salves to prevent radiation damage for cosmonauts, shampoos, skin care and tea to relieve the stress level of the the army working at higher elevations in the Himalayas.
Seabuckthorn was first introduced to western Canada in the 1950s.
Applications in the Food Industry
Use of seabuckthorn berries is limited by imagination only. They have a tropical tangy flavour which chefs love to incorporate in sauces, vinaigrettes, marinates, juices, smoothies, sorbets, ice cream, fruit snacks, jams, chutnies, cakes, muffins, crisps, tarts, yogurt and confections. It makes for a zesty wine or liqueur. The leaves are not only used in tea but are used in baked goods for the soldiers in India.
Seabuckthorn berries are difficult to pick because of the thorns and because the berries adhere tightly to the branch. We harvest by cutting branches with berries on them and immediately put them into frozen storage at -30° C. This not only maintains the nutritional value of the berries, but also makes removal from the branch much simpler.