Sea buckthorn is an ancient fruit with many points of origin, from Europe to Pakistan and throughout Central Asia. Mentions of the fruit are just as diverse, as it’s repeated in ancient Greek literature and Tibetan medicine texts dating to the Tang Dynasty of 618-708 AD. Today, cultivation has spread to North America (particularly Quebec), South America and Australia. The largest growers of sea buckthorn are China and Russia.
Availability of Sea Buckthorn in India
Sea buckthorn grows mostly wild throughout a few of India’s cold, dry regions. Areas in which the fruit naturally thrives are the Hindu Kush range along the far northern border of Pakistan and India, Ladakh, Kumaon-Garwal in Uttaranchal, Lauhual-Spiti and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh, and the sacred forests of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Sea buckthorn encompasses a decent amount of landmass in some areas—30,000 hectares in Ladakh alone, for instance—but the country’s commercialization efforts are nascent. After seeing China’s growing interest in the fruit, a few of India’s agricultural departments are now taking note and pledging to cultivate one million hectares of sea buckthorn by 2020 as part of the Green India Mission.
The fruit is exceptionally resistant to cold winters and thrives along sunny riverbanks and hill slopes at elevations up to 12,000 feet. Growers must ensure that the plant is well drained so as not to drown the sensitive roots in the event of heavy rainfall.
Where to find Sea Buckthorn in India
Sea buckthorn is a winter berry, coming into season from early October until early December. The fruit, however, is not easily found outside of the regions in which it grows. Farmers tend to shy away from distributing unknown fruits, as crop margins are already small for even the best-selling, beloved fruits. It doesn’t help that dense, thorny branches surround the fruit.
The rhetoric of increasing production and generating marketing has not yet reached the average buyer, nor do sea buckthorns appear on the shelves of metro city stores in the winter months. Finding raw sea buckthorn in India requires visiting these regions and going into the villages in which they grow.
Some Indian wholesalers have attempted to cash in on the wonder fruit, and thus, it’s possible for retailers to get these items in their shops. However, few retailers have taken such initiative. Customers looking for sea buckthorn products may be able to find sea buckthorn tea, lotion with its extracts, and perhaps (though rare) pasteurized juice in New Delhi.
Checking for Ripeness in Sea Buckthorn
Sea buckthorn berries are ripest when they’ve reached their gorgeous orange glow, but emit no unpleasant odor, as this is a sign of being overripe. Ripe sea buckthorn can be shaken off the branch, though many prefer clipping the fruits individually to avoid bruising.
The ripest, largest sea buckthorns tend not to grow larger than the size of one’s thumbnail, and few fruits grow larger than a caper.
Taste of Sea Buckthorn
Ignore any claims touting this berry as delicious. In its unprocessed, raw state, sea buckthorn is oily, bitter, sour, tart and astringent. Some compare the taste to the nearly inedible chokecherry. One of the only ways to make it palatable is by adding sweeteners such as juices or sugar. Some variants (particularly the larger fruits) are sweeter than others, though even the sweeter varieties are still too tart for many palates. A few Russian cultivars have been bred for better sweetness, though these have not reached Indian farmers.
Then again, foodies from “The Splendid Table” are much more complimentary with respects to the fruit. One waxed poetically, “I tasted sea buckthorn. It was a revelation to me. This small orange berry, it’s acidic, astringent, it’s delicious…it has notes of something exotic in it—like passion fruit, mango. It’s remarkable.” Other fans of the fruit liken the explosion of flavor with that of extreme sour candy.
When overripe, sea buckthorn oils taste rancid and are considered inedible. Use caution if making juice from sea buckthorn, as one bad berry can spoil the jug.
Nutritional Value of Sea Buckthorn
Finding a definitive nutrition profile for sea buckthorn is somewhat difficult, though several studies have been conducted on its nutrient levels. Sea buckthorn contains omega 3, omega 5, omega 6, omega 7 and omega 9. The berries also contain serotonin, beta carotene, uric acid, succinic acid, oleonol acid. For mineral substances, the fruit contains 11 micro elements such as zinc, calcium and iron.
Per 100g, sea buckthorn has the following values:
6-11% fatty acid
600 – 2,500mg Vitamin C
160mg Vitamin E
310-2,100 mg Flavanoids
100g of sea buckthorn juice contain 49kcal.
Health Benefits of Sea Buckthorn
Sea buckthorn’s health benefits have gained substantial publicity in the recent years, namely because of the fruit’s use in traditional medicine and its occasional mention on popular health shows like Dr. Oz.
As per the book, “Indian Medicinal Plants,” sea buckthorn concoctions have been used traditionally as an astringent, anti-diarrheal, stomachic, antitussive and anti-hemorrhagic. Concoctions treat stomach ulcers and, when applied topically, treat bedsores and skin problems caused by irradiation.
The book, “The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements” explains that the ancient Greeks used to use the berry to promote skin health, energy and vitality, and for weight stabilization.
Sea buckthorn contains a rare fatty acid called palmitoleic acid, which scientists believe is the compound capable of boosting skin health. It is one of the only fruits containing omega-7. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains that these fatty acids assist with growth and development, as well as treat arthritis, heart disease, skin disorders, diabetes and hypertension.
Scientific studies on the fruit are mixed. While “The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements” points to studies showing no significant effects on skin health or cardiovascular health, other research indicates the contrary.
--A 2002 study published in Fitoterapia indicates that sea buckthorn seed and pulp oils significantly reduced gastric ulcer formation in rats, thus affirming its traditional use as a stomachic.
--A 1999 study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that atopic dermatitis patients who consumed the fruit’s pulp oil had noticeable improvements in their skin condition after four months.
--A 2003 study published in World Journal of Gastroenterology found that sea buckthorn may be helpful in the prevention of liver fibrosis: cirrhotic patients who took sea buckthorn extracts for six months found a significant decrease in their serum, collagen and bile acid counts.
--According to a study mentioned in a report published by the Journal of Biological Sciences, sea buckthorn improved cardiac functions and decreased cholesterol levels when tested amongst 128 patients with ischemic heart disease.
--The same report published in the Journal of Biological Sciences also references several studies affirming sea buckthorn’s expediting healing properties of burns, scalds, and various other skin conditions when applied topically and ingested.
How to Open/Cut:
Sea buckthorn requires no peeling or de-seeding. Like blueberries, they may be eaten out of hand as-is, juiced, or blended.
Sea buckthorn prefers cooler, drier temperatures and should not be left in humid, warm kitchens. Place loosely packed sea buckthorn fruit in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a week. Or, place sea buckthorns in the freezer to extend its lifespan for up to a year.
|Mulled sea buckthorn juice from|
Sea Buckthorn Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--One of the most common recipes for seabuckthorn is simply juice. When pressed, the juice separates into three layers: the top is an oily layer, the middle is juice, and the bottom is sediment. After six months, the juice grows brown from oxidation.
--To make the recipe of the mulled juice above, combine and heat sea buckthorn juice with brewed tea, orange juice and warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Add brown sugar as necessary.
--Seabuckthorn leaves are used to make teas.
--The oil has medicinal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.
--Use sea buckthorn juice as a lemon juice substitute: doing so opens the possibilities to making sour liquers, marinades, sauces, and dessert syrups.
--Make sea buckthorn vinegar by adding the fruits to boiled white vinegar. Add other spices as desired.
--Infuse the fruit in vodka
--Its high pectin content makes it ideal for jams, preserves, custard and jellies.
--To make sea buckthorn syrup, boil the berries and strain them. Press out the juice, and then simmer in sugar until a syrupy consistency is achieved.
--Use this syrup as the basis for tarts and sorbets. Or, add to sodas and even champagne.
|Sea buckthorn salad from|
Cranberry, Buddha’s hand, calamondin, orange, lemon, lime, chokeberry, blackberry, kokum
Sea buckthorn shrubs have a remarkable lifespan of 100 to 150 years.
Hippophae means “shiny horse,” a label given by the ancient Greeks due to the fruit leaf’s ability to gloss the coat of horses when consumed. Legend has it, Pegasus preferred eating buckthorn leaves to any other food.
In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, seabuckthorn juice was the official team beverage for the Chinese team.
Russian cosmonauts took sea buckthorn oil as radiation protection.
US specialty health food stores sell bottles of sea buckthorn juice for $20.
Hippophae salicifolia (willow-leaved sea buckthorn)