In the drear of winter, the bright-orange sea buckthorn berry is a tonic – a pop of colour and tangy taste that’s packed with vitamin C. It’s been used as a traditional medicine for centuries: Alexander the Great reputedly gave it to his troops after noting its beneficial effect on his horses. Today, it grows all over Europe and parts of Asia, where it’s used as a cooking ingredient and herbal remedy. The silvery leaves can also be used to make an antioxidant tea.
Seth Pascoe, co-owner of the Cornish Seaberry Co, began cultivating sea buckthorn in the south-west of England after experiencing its therapeutic benefits in the Himalayas: “I was two-thirds of the way to Everest base camp and I had a splitting headache, dizziness and an occasional nosebleed thanks to altitude sickness. The sherpas brought out a neon-orange juice; I knocked it back and when I woke up the following morning the headache and dizziness had all but disappeared.” His shrubs go into a canned juice called VitaminSEA, a sweet-and-sour blend of his regeneratively farmed seaberries, apples and lemon juice (£23.99 for six 250ml cans).
Sea buckthorn juice on its own can be gloopy and sharp. But if you’re just after the nutritional benefits, Erbology’s organic sea buckthorn shot contains more than a day’s worth of vitamin C (£10.49 for three shots). The German healthfood company KoRo also sells bag-in-box pure juices including black carrot, ginger and orange and sea buckthorn – and ships internationally (£22 for three litres).
Bartenders have also been using sea buckthorn to give their cocktails a regional twist. “It’s the passionfruit of the north,” says Paul Aguilar of top Oslo bar Himkok. Aguilar and his bar manager Maros Dzurus have infused Negronis with its berries, made Garibaldis with sea buckthorn cordial, and created a sparkling cocktail with house-made sea buckthorn distillate. On the list currently is a riff on the Norwegian passionfruit Martini made with locally grown sea buckthorn.
At London’s stylish locavore restaurant Native at Browns they use sea buckthorn to make a mouthwatering non-alcoholic spritz. “We try and forage on the east and south coast for the berries when in season as much as we can, or we use Miles Irving at Forager Ltd, who is based in Kent,” says co-founder Imogen Davis. They also source berries from The British Sea Buckthorn Company in Essex, which sells a mix of own-grown, and imported European, sea buckthorn.
At Christina’s bar in Shoreditch, they serve a Cosmo twist made with sea buckthorn and rosehip. Proof that this little orange berry can bring a touch of wholesomeness to even the trashiest drink.