Friday, November 07, 2008

Sea Buckthorn

click photo to enlarge
"Popeye the Sailor Man" must have been on steroids because all those cans of spinach he tipped eagerly down his throat weren't responsible for the repeated thrashings that he handed out to Bluto. It's now fairly common knowledge that a scientist's misplaced decimal point was responsible for the belief that spinach had ten times more iron than other leaf vegetables. The original "superfood" turned out to be more of a 10 stone weakling than a muscle-bound hulk!

Today, food writers, nutritionists, scientists and supermarkets are keen to conscript new superfoods in the battle against obesity and to lure the shoppers' money. I've lost track of which is supposed to be best for you - it's either blueberries or broccoli, I think. However, doing a little research for the piece to accompany today's photograph I've come up with a new candidate - Sea Buckthorn! You'll be searching out the humble Hippophae rhamnoides and demanding that your local store starts stocking it once you've read about all the goodies that are packed into its bright orange berries.

Lets start with vitamin C: it has 695mg per 100g compared with 50mg per 100g in oranges! It's also rich in carotenoids, vitamin E, amino acids, minerals, saturated and unsaturated fats, and other beneficial elements. The berries can be consumed as juice, syrup or pulp, though they need to be flavoured to remove the astringency. The Indian Army provides the juice for its troops stationed in the Himalayas where its freezing point of -22°C makes it very useful. Left-overs from juice making can be used in the preparation of skin creams and liniments! Traditional medicine claims many healing properties for the berries, bark, leaves and flowers. And, if you fancy growing some yourself, its dense habit, tough branches and sharp thorns also make it a good, vandal-proof garden barrier.

Today's photograph is a detail of a bush growing in sand dunes on the Irish Sea coast. I particularly like this combination of orange and blue/green, and the way the lines of clustered berries formed a cross drew my eye and then my camera.

Talking about my researches with a friend I discovered that sea buckthorn is not unknown in the world of celebrity chefs. Apparently Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (known as Hugh Burnley-Rawtenstall in my house - that's a joke for East Lancashire dwellers) has been known to use it when whipping up a menu based on found and foraged foods.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On