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Seaberries: A Wonder Fruit to Help Fight the Flu

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

 

Seaberries via Wikimedia CC.

January is the month when a tickle in the throat sends us running to our medicinal war chests. Make way for seaberries (Hippophae spp.) -- the most powerful superfruit Americans have never heard of.

Also known as sea buckthorn, the bright berry is now becoming highly prized in beauty products and nutritional supplements. With fifteen times more Vitamin C than oranges (695 mg per 100 grams), seaberries pack a punch of carotenoids, vitamins A and E, amino acids and polyphenols.

Pressed from the seeds, seaberry oil soothes burns, ulcers and softens skin. The tart little things are in laboratories, where researchers are investigating their effectiveness in aiding chemotherapy patients. 

Seriously. Get in your Jetta right now and pick up some seaberry juice at the Roman Russian Food Store on 110th and SE Division. No car? Grow your own. Especially in a communal garden or park, the thorns and bitter-tasting fruit are their own security system. No one will dare steal this crop. Adorned with thin silver green leaves, fat clusters of golden orange berries in the fall appear and last on the branch through our mild Oregon winter.

The full branches are long lasting and look lovely in winter floral arrangements. Seaberries naturally grow where no other plant will, in the salty air of craggy oceanscapes, amid arid deserts and the high mountains of Russia, China and Northern Europe. Their pervasive root system makes them perfect for stabilizing muddy hillsides. Harvest Nursery stocks seaberry plants, claiming “seaberry is an extremely hardy and valuable fruiting plant... [producing] crops in the most inhospitable areas.” (Harvest Nursery, 10470 NE 6th Dr.)  Plant a few trees on your own inhospitable hillside and watch them take off. Their only demand is full sun. Hah, in Oregon? 

There stands a gangly seaberry in my backyard, pinned between the dilapidated back wooden fence and our chicken run. Chickens love seaberries. Robins and cardinals will love to feast on the seeded fruits too. (Funny how the birds always know where the good stuff is.)

To harvest the berries, I clipped off the fruit laden branches and froze them in giant plastic bags. Once the berries are frozen solid, I whacked the berries into a bucket for indefinite storage in the freezer. The raw berries themselves are very astringent. When thinned with sugar water or apple juice, seaberry juice is a delicious treat for preventing and combatting mid-winter sniffles. Try making a sweet syrup to pour on vanilla ice cream for the kiddos.   

Seaberry Syrup

Serve on ice cream, crepes or waffles
1 cup simmering water
1 cup sugar
2 cups seaberry juice
Pour water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add the seaberry juice. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to make a syrup.  Let cool and bottle for a sicky day.

An urban farmer and master gardener, Amélie Rousseau writes for fellow explorers and eaters of the plant kingdom. It's a jungle out there.

 

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