Sea Hawthorn - a growing success in the townships
Pres. Andre Nicole of th Grower's Association (left) Martin Trepanier, Univ. of Laval and Sutton grower Bernard Lussier
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
Called the new superfood, the Sea Hawthorn is becoming a valueble Quebec crop and the berries are now cultivated at 48 farms, some of the prominent ones here in the Eastern Townships. Last Saturday, Mont Echo Naturels, a grower and processor of the berries hosted an event to showcase the products, growing procedures and health benefits of Sea Hawthorn at their new boutique in Knowlton.
Many officers of the Grower's Association were present, but so were a number of growers who took delight in mingling with the public to tell them about the berries. There was also a buffet with delicious Sea Hawthorn tarts and other delicacies.
The plant has been culticated in China, Russia, Finland and other northern European countries and it's roots and medicinal use have been documented in ancient Greek writings, Tibetan medical scrolls from the 8th century, and have even been mentioned by Genghis Khan as a method to nourish and protect his armies.
It has been about a decade since Quebec farmers have been planting the trees which are greatly suited to our harsh climate and often rough soils. But it takes time explains Sutton grower Bernard Lussier, "I will have a small harvest this year but is is five years after I planted my farm and in the first year I lost half of my plants". But, having visited the orchard, the trees are now coming along beautifully. "This is a long-range investment and eventually will create a sustainable and ecologically friendy farm". Right now there are 48 growers and some farms have shown great yields and good profitability.
Mont Echo Naturels is one of them. They have been in businesss longer than otrhers and have cultivated a wide range of products based on the berries. There are teas made from the tree's leaves, there are jams and other culinary products and they have a big line of natural cosmetics based on the fruit's medicinal properties.
Association members had a good time at the event
The biggest problem with the plant is the harvesting procedure. It is too time consuming to pick the berries by hand as they are deeply clustered and sit amidst some of the sharpest thorns encountered in the plant kingdom. A new technique had to be invented and now Quebec farmers cut the berry clusters out in one bunch, flash freeze them and then simply shake the frozen berries of the stalks. This actually prunes the tree as well. The association has purchased a $ 25,000.- machine for this work and it travels from association member to association member at harvest time, truly an ingenious bit of planning as harvest times vary at the different growing regions.
The unique therapeutic properties of Sea Buckthorn oil are explained by its almost unbelievable abundance in health-promoting bioactive components. The ripe berries of Sea Buckthorn contain more than 190 varieties of bioactive substances, of which 106 occur in the berry oil. This number includes six different fat-soluble vitamins and vitamin-like substances, 22 fatty acids, 42 kinds of lipids and 36 kinds of flavonoids and phenols . So far, the pharmacological license for Sea Buckthorn oil has been renewed five times since the first time it was approved as a drug for production and utilization by the Ministry of Public Health of the former USSR . In addition to the gastrointestinal inflammation- and ulceration-related problems, Sea Buckthorn oil is also used to treat burns, skin lesions and other skin problems, including rosacea and eczema, cervical erosions, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, etc.
These properties make the oil so valuable in the different skin care products and health aids offered now. But for the less serious part: Many upscale restaurants in the province have also discovered the delicare almost bitter orange flavor of this brightly orange fruit and have been using it in sauces, pastries, soups and as condiments.
Cheerful staff at Mont Echo Naturel's Boutique