In the last five years sea buckthorn has become a very popular berry here in Estonia. While ten years ago it was used only to get oil and treat cold, today one can find it in cheesecakes, sorbets, tea, popsicles, and many other food products including sea buckthorn honey.
What is sea buckthorn?
Originally sea buckthorn was called hippophae, or “shining horse”. This is because it was believed that green leaves and young branches of the tree improve the appears of the horse’s coat and improve the gain. Thus it was fed as a remedy to horses.
Most of the sea buckthorn trees (in fact over 90%) are found in China, Mongolia, Russia, and Northern Europe. Berries are orange in color and extremely sour and oily, so eating them raw is left for the few. Trees are very thorny and prefer dry and sandy soil. They also cannot tolerate shadow. These berries were used for centuries to treat various diseases.
The orange color of the berry is due to the presence of beta-carotene (β-Carotene) and lycopene. Fresh sea buckthorn contains 2.8-7.8% of fatty oils, vitamin C, vitamin A, group B vitamins, and various carotenoids, i.e. riboflavin, tocopherol, lycopene, folic acid, phylloquinone, sugars, tannins, oleic, stearic, linoleic and palmitic acid.
While berries are one of the best sources of vitamins one can find, the tree crust contains serotonin which is used heavily in medicine to treat diseases like depression, migraine, nausea, and many others.
The common uses for sea buckthorn is to treat the following health problems: improve eye health, immune system, has anti-aging properties, reduce the bad cholesterol in blood, muscle nourishment, regulate endocrine function, blood lipids, has huge anti-inflammatory and pain relief functions. Given this massive list no wonder sea buckthorn is relied heavily upon in cooking now.
Sea buckthorn oil
The oil of hippophae has the same color as the berries but very distinctive smell. I hated it as a child when was forced to drink a tea spoon every day whenever I was ill. By the amount of carotenoids contained in the oil sea buckthorn is just behind dog-rose.
When the berries are pressed, the resulting sea buckthorn juice separates into three layers: on top is a thick, orange cream; in the middle, a layer containing sea buckthorn’s characteristic high content of saturated and polyunsaturated fats; and the bottom layer is sediment and juice. Containing fat sources applicable for cosmetic purposes, the upper two layers can be processed for skin creams and liniments, whereas the bottom layer can be used for edible products like syrup.
Sea buckthorn honey
Preparing the sea buckthorn honey is very easy, just like you would with any other berries. Wash the berries carefully and dry them. Place in small plastic vacuum bags and freeze. If you use smaller bags it will be easier to use and you wouldn’t need to break the blocks. Finally mix them with raw honey using 1:1 proportion. I suggest to first blend berries to break seeds and thus free more nutrients and oils contained in them.
Keep in mind that when using fresh or frozen berries you need to consume the honey within a month or less, otherwise it might start losing its health benefits or may even become fermented. Use small jars that you can consume within a week or two and keep it refrigerated.
To improve the storage time you need to dehydrate berries using very low temperature so that they retain all the nutrients.
We sell sea buckthorn honey delights in our shop. All the ingredients in our desserts remain most of the vitamins and nutrients because we use only raw honey which is never heat-treated, and we slowly dry our berries at a low temperature to retain vitamins. By buying from Mellis Berry you also support local farmers and producers that we closely work with.