Seaberry or seabuckthorn is another of the lesser known (in the United States) plants that every homestead in a temperate climate should have growing. Often times seaberry is referred to as the citrus of the north. Owing to it high vitamin C content (up to 15x greater than that of oranges) and other healthful benefits seaberry has gained fame as a super fruit! Unique in the world of berries seabuckthorn has been shown to be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also high in anti-oxidants.
Seaberry is cold hardy to zone 3 and drought tolerant once established. If the name wasn’t a give away seaberry is also very tolerant of salty soils as well as salty air. Also pointed to in the alternate name of seabuckthorn, the branches have a protective sheath of thorns, making it somewhat resistant to browsing damge from deer, elk or other nibblers of foliage (this can also make it painful to harvest your berries if not careful!). In its native range from the Atlantic coast of Europe into northwestern Mongolia and China seaberry inhabits hostile terrain that most other plants simply will not tolerate. Seaberry is a nitrogen fixer (though not in the legume family), so is often times used to stabilize and improve damaged soils.
Growing seaberry is a strait forward affair. They like full sun, and are tolerant of a wide range of soil types and Ph. The bush can grow anywhere from 2ft upto 20ft tall and wide depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. They do not require fertilization since they fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Once established their water needs are few, though you will get a better harvest with irrigation if rains can’t be counted on during the growing season. Seaberry does require both a male and female plant in order to produce fruit. Some of the most popular cultivars of seaberry originate from Russia where they have done extensive breeding and plant improvement, selecting for ease of harvest, nutrition and palatability.
The berries can be pressed for juice or added to smoothies to give a nutritious superfruit kick! The seeds can be pressed for oil and makes a decent stand in for fish oils for those who chose to go the vegan route in their health supplements. Unless you get an improved cultivar the berries can be somewhat astringent, sour, and oily. Some find the experience of raw seaberry to be unpleasant. Harvest should take place after the berries have experienced a frost. This will reduce astringency and alleviate some of the sour taste. In addition the juice can be fermented or used as an adjunct to apple or grape juice to help counteract the sour flavor. The fruit can be used to make pies, jams, teas, fruit wine, liquors, and even lotions.
This homestead hero is a veritable swiss army knife when it comes to function stacking on the farm. Give it a try, just remember you’ll need a couple plants (male and female)!