The start of the sea buckthorn harvest is upon us. If you are not familiar with this fruit, you may be interested to know that it has been called “an all-in-one phyto-medicinal cabinet”1. Sea buckthorn has been used for thousands of years in both Europe and Asia as food and for its pharmaceutical properties and is now being grown by a number of farmers throughout Canada including in Ontario. Sea buckthorn fruit can vary in both shape and colour, but are often cylindrical berries ranging from bright yellow to red. The berries can be eaten fresh or frozen for later use. Sea buckthorn berries are used in a wide variety of products ranging for juices and jams to baked goods. In addition, the oil from the fruit is used in many personal care products such as skin creams and cosmetics.
Sea buckthorn fruit have several components that make them a nutritional powerhouse. Reported measurements show they are a rich source of vitamin C, being anywhere from 3 to 50 times higher than orange juice1. Interestingly, sea buckthorn is a member of the Elaeagnaceae family and is not related to either the citrus family (Rutaceae) or the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). The fruit are also rich sources of organic acids, proteins, and phytosterols which have been used to lower blood cholesterol levels. The sugar level in sea buckthorn fruit can range from 9 to 22 % and is dependent on variety and time of harvest. Measurements of the sugar content of Indian-Summer fresh ripe fruit grown in Saskatchewan ranged from 9.7 to 10.8%1. Although sugar is present in the fruit, the typically high level of organic acids imparts sharpness to the overall berry flavour. Oils can be extracted from both the fruit pulp and the seeds and are high in vitamin E, phytosterols and omega-3 linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid.
Sea Buckthorn is being harvested and sold in Ontario this growing season.
Ripe sea buckthorn berries ready for harvest.
1. Li, T.S.C and Beveridge, T.H.J. 2003. Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.): Production and Utilization. NRC Research Press, Ottawa. (www.monographs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca)