Hippophae rhamnoides (seabuckthorn)
When the days are growing shorter and the skies and seas are grey, the shores are brightened by the beautiful orange berries of the Seabuckthorn. They densely cover the branches of the spikey sand dune shrubs, and their distinctive scent fills the air.
Hippophae rhamnoides, Seabuckthorn, is an invasive, non native species, and in some locations, communities are trying to curb its spreading. Luckily for us foragers, the berries are plentiful, delicious, healthy, and versatile. They are tart and juicy and their citrusy tang can be used as a substitute for lemon or other citrus fruit, vinegar, or verjus in a multitude of sweet and savoury applications. In many countries, Seabuckthorn berries have long been in favour as a delicious super food, and are used in health food, cosmetics, and supplements.
Seabuckthorn berries begin to rip towards the middle of September, and even now, nearing the end of November, the shorelines are packed with them, the smell of beginning natural fermentation mingling with the fragrance of ripe Seabuck berries berries. By now they are so ripe that it is impossible to pick them off the bush like blackberries: the thin skins break and leave the fingers grasping only seeds and skins, dripping with acidic, brightly orange coloured juice. Nevertheless, with a little trick, we can still harvest these bright little vitamin parcels: using pruning scissors to cut branches with thickly clustered berries and then freezing the entire twigs, renders the solid berries and easily separated from wood and leaves. After picking off the berries, they can be thawed and processed. I usually push them through a sieve to separate the plentiful juice from the seeds and skins. The juice then finds its way into all kinds of dishes: jellies and gummies, possets and cheesecakes, drizzle cakes and soups, stews and roasts, salads and pasta. Or, the most simple way to enjoy Seabuckthorn goodness: mix the raw juice with sugar or honey and add to hot or cold water for a vitamin filled, antioxidant rich, beautifully scented, brightly coloured and deliciously refreshing drink.
I love being able to harvest a supply of local, wild vitamin goodness to last me through the winter, rather than having to fall back on buying citrus fruit from the grocery store with all the packaging, pesticides, fertilisers, and food miles that entails.
There are many spots along the East Lothian shoreline, and across the UK, where you can find and harvest Hippophae rhamnoides.