Hippophae (Sea buckthorn)

Sea buckthorn has a long tradition of use in Germany, where preserves, juice and even tea made with the leaves and cosmetics made from the berries can be found in supermarkets. It is not surprising then that German breeders have developed a range of new female cultivars since the 1970s with prolific fruit, high Vitamin C content and some with fewer spines.  Spinelessness has its drawback though – they make easy pickings for birds as well as people and have to be netted to protect them. Raymond has experimented with six varieties – Hergo, Orange Energy which has few spines, Dorana, suited to most gardens, Frugana, Leikora, and the tree Salicifolia. Of those planted next to each other, the birds voted unanimously for Orange Energy, which was completely stripped in 2012. In contrast, none of the berries on Hergo were taken. Another hazard are the gold finches that strip many of the male flower buds in spring from the tree buckthorn. Raymond is fairly relaxed about their misdemeanour “Birds eat a fair bit of my crop but I have got enough and don't mind sharing”.

Variety      Growth habit     Ripening                     Fruit size                           Nutrients              Use
Askola              Very upright    early                     medium                      High acid and vitamin C  

Dorana              Small bush,    medium                  medium                       High vitamin C                      Ornamental  
                          fewer spines
Frugana           Very upright      early                     medium                          Mild flavour  

Habego               spreading       late                                                        High oil content                    Commercial,
Hergo                  upright          early                      medium                                                                 Commercial

Leikora              spreading        late                       medium                 Highest in vitamin C                  Commercial,
Pollmix           upright             Clones vary to           None                                                                   Pollinator
                                              Suit female                                                                                           for females

Harvesting and processing sea buckthorn can seem like a pain – quite literally, when trying to pick individual berries from the thorny branches.
In commercial plantations, the fruit-laden branches are cut off and frozen so that the berries may be easily knocked from the branches, the leaves are stripped by hand (you may want to wear gloves for this). Liquid nitrogen cooling is used commercially when stripping the berries, but presuming you don't use that in your home a chest freezer will do. The frozen branches are then extracted, and finally the berries are stripped or shaken into a bowl or pan for further processing.  
If a whole bush is harvested this way it will take two years until it bears fruit again. To have crops every year, you need to plant at least two female bushes or alternatively cut off only half the branches like Raymond does at Towans. He uses them fresh with other fruit in his breakfast cereal, or harvests them as described.

Once the berries are in the pan at last, there is a plethora of ways of using them. The juice can be drunk, either neat (producing a scrunched-up face if you're not used to it) or blended with apples for a drink full of vitamin C boost that is delicious straight from the fridge or at room temperature. A jam made with cooking apples is deliciously sweet and sour, and the dried berries as well as the leaves can be blended with other herbs for a refreshing tea mix. Not letting anything go to waste, Raymond also harvests the leaves for tea. The best harvest time for leaves is just as the flowers on the female plants develop into fruit, but it's best to get the leaf crop from the male plants only, so as not to interfere with fruit development.

A great deal of interest is being focussed on the fruits and leaves of this plant, throughout the countries of Northern Temperate Region. Ten centuries of research are currently being reviewed and the new website seabuckthorn.uk has set out to be the world main source of information about this remarkable plant.
Tomas Remiarz – 2015