People have been using sea berries, winter berries or sea buckthorn ‘hippophae rhamnoides’ for at least 12 centuries. In the 13th century Genghis Khan, founder of the Mogul Empire, stated that his success was due to three things: well organised armies, strict discipline and sea buckthorn! Its oil made his warriors stronger and more agile than any foe (but the account doesn’t confirm if it was consumed or rubbed onto their skin?!)
This hardy plant grows well in our dry, sandy, coastal areas. It can withstand salt spray off the sea so makes its home here knowing that other larger plants won’t/ can’t compete. Female plants produce orange berry-like fruit on very spiky branches. Sea buckthorn berries stand bold against a grey winter sky.
They have recently been labelled a ‘superfood’ due to having a high content of vitamin C. Gathering techniques include mechanised larg-scale harvesting involving freezing cut tree limbs; the easiest way for the thorny spines to give up their precious fruit. We suggest a plastic bag, a gardening glove and patience!
Harvesting tip – Here is a great blog by Monica Wilde about harvesting sea buckthorn from their spiky bushes!
When and where to pick?
The season to pick the berries is between October and early December, so ‘catch them while you can’! There is a good chance you will find them on the Coast Path between Cromer and Overstrand. Park at Overstrand beach (Cliff Top car park), walk towards the beach, take the steep path down to the beach and then left (Follow Paston Way).
Walk for about a mile until you see wooden steps going up to the top of the cliff. Hopefully they are still there (unless the birds might have eaten them…). Otherwise nearer the golf course.
Sea Buckthorn Fizz
Heat berries in stainless steel saucepan, gently mashing them to release their juice. Pass through a sieve lined with muslin and squeeze as much juice through as possible. Add sugar to taste and heat gently till it is dissolved. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of cool syrup to a glass and top up with English sparkling wine.
Herb and Sea Buckthorn jelly
Boil your berries with a bit of water then simmer for 30 mins, using a potato masher to make a pulp. Sieve, or strain through a muslin for really clear results. Measure 100g sugar to 100ml liquid, boil till sugar is dissolved then measure how much juice.
Per 250ml of juice, add the following ingredients: 125ml vinegar, 150g chopped herbs, a chili pepper (optional). Bring to the boil, cook rapidly for 15 mins, add 1 tbsp pectin per 600ml liquid, boil for a further 10 mins. Crinkle-test on a saucer, snip extra herbs if desired and stir gently to disperse, bottle. And here you have a great jelly to have with cold meats and ham.
Sea Buckthorn Schnapps
Freeze ripe berries to make them milder and sweeter. Fill a jar with berries then fill up with unflavoured vodka. Steep for 2-3 months, shaking the jar lightly from time to time. Strain into a clean jar and keep for further 6 months before using, the longer the better!