Seabuckthorn: A Permaculture Crop Spotlight

 In Featured, Food, Verge Permaculture, Why Permaculture?

Looking for an ideal pioneer species for your cold climate permaculture food forest? I highly recommend seabuckthorn, a plant that grows quickly, fixes nitrogen into the ground, and produces multiple useful yields. Here’s a video of Michelle going over it in more detail over at the Groundswell campus in Invermere, BC:

Many Berry Benefits

It’s too bad sailors in the past didn’t know about seabuckthorn, because one berry contains roughly 12 times the Vitamin C of an orange! In addition to Vitamin C, seabuckthorn berries also contain a unique Omega-7 fatty acid, which is reputed to have the ability to protect the inner stomach lining and treat stomach ulcers. Here are some of the other reported health benefits:

  • Reverse gout
  • Fight infections
  • Eliminate skin rashes
  • Improve vision
  • Promote colon health
  • Contribute to brain and nervous system functions
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Boost lymphatic circulation
  • Neutralize free radicals
  • Slow the aging process

Personally, I think every garden that can grow a seabuckthorn plan should do so. One thing to keep in mind – you’ll need both a male and a female plant for pollination.

A Super Tea Too

If the berries weren’t super enough, seabuckthorn leaves also contain significant medicinal properties. A recent study by Agri Food Research in Health in Manitoba found that seabuckthorn leaves were loaded with polyphenols in levels far in excess of that found in green tea leaves:

seabuckthorn polyphenols comparison

Image credit: solberry.ca

In addition to polyphenols, seabuckthorn leaves are also packed with protein, carotenoids, vitamin E, flavonoids, antioxidants, and an array of chemicals with anti-viral properties (Gupta et al., 2011).

A Perfect (Yerba) Mate

One of my favourite teas in the morning is a blend of seabuckthorn leaf and yerba mate. You might know yerba also as a super plant (you can read about its benefits here); it’s a perfect complement if you’re like me and need a bit of a caffeine kick in your tea.

My daily routine involves adding a bunch of seabuckthorn leaves, a large pinch of yerba mate leaves, and two small scoops of stevia (available from Now Better Stevia) to my two-cup Bodum French Press. It’s easy, tastes great, and is good for me. If you crave an extra nutritional boost, simply throw in a teaspoon of ground seabuckthorn berry before steeping with hot water. Here’s a video of me brewing some:

A Quick Harvesting Tip

Here’s a trick when it comes to harvesting seabuckthorn without messing with the thorns: Simply trim the branches off the bush when the berries are ripe and then throw them whole into the freezer. Freezing makes it easy to strip off the berries, which tend to grow in clumps. I recommend trimming the branches to the dimensions of your chest freezer, and then whacking the branches against the freezer wall once everything is nice and frozen. All the berries and leaves should come off the branches easily: No fuss or muss. You can then sort and store everything in ziplocks and use them as you see fit all year long!

A Prime Business Opportunity?

I’ve seen local health food stories in Calgary sell seabuckthorn leaves for $17 an ounce. Having planted them myself and having seen how prolific the plant’s leaves grow, I’ll leave the potential business opportunities to your imagination.

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