A tart, healthy ad­di­tion to your plate

Toronto Star - - LIFE - CYN­THIA DAVID SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

Whether har­vested in Siberia or Tees­dale, Ont., sea buckthorn berries pack a pow­er­ful punch.

“It’s like grape­fruit on steroids,” says Paul Sawtell, whose 100km Foods dis­trib­utes the glow­ing or­ange berries to a grow­ing num­ber of lo­cal chefs.

“They’re su­per unique and avail­able frozen year-round,” says Sawtell, whose sales have jumped from $550 to $10,000 in just three years.

On­tario’s largest grow­ers, Mar­lene Wyn­nyk and her hus­band, have spent 15 years grow­ing and pro­mot­ing the an­cient berry’s health ben­e­fits at their Heal­ing Arc or­chard near Wing­ham, Ont.

The “Cit­rus of the North” is off the charts in vi­ta­mins A and C (eat just eight berries a day) and rich in an­tiox­i­dants and omega fatty acids.

In mid-Au­gust, their 3.2 hectares of bright or­ange berries ripen in dense clus­ters. Thorns make har­vest­ing dif­fi­cult, but Wyn­nyk says the trees don’t re­quire pes­ti­cides or her­bi­cides, they can han­dle tem­per­a­tures from 40 C to mi­nus 40 C and they add ni­tro­gen to the soil. Chefs at lofty Canoe restau­rant have been us­ing the tangy berry for years to add a bright pop to fall and win­ter menus.

“With our fo­cus on Cana­dian in­gre­di­ents, we don’t use trop­i­cal fruit,” Chef de cui­sine Coul­son Arm­strong says. “But sea buckthorn gives us a burst of flavour and acid­ity sim­i­lar to pas­sion fruit.”

To tone down the berry’s ex­treme tart­ness, Arm­strong pick­les them in cham­pagne vine­gar, or adds sweet­ened juice to his North­ern Crush cock­tail. An­other en­thu­si­ast is Vic­tor De Guz­man, ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Rosedale Golf Club, who whisks the berries in salad dress­ing and re­duces them to a sauce for maple-glazed duck breast.

“They cre­ate drama on the plate,” says Al­bert Ponzo, ex­ec­u­tive chef at Le Sélect Bistro, who uses sea buckthorn to cut the rich­ness of grilled foie gras.

Ryan de Leon, chef de cui­sine at Qu­a­tre­foil in Dun­das, Ont., purées the berries for dessert, spoon­ing house-made sea buckthorn jam into mac­arons and meringue “snow­balls.”

Wyn­nyk’s sis­ter, re­tired restau­ra­teur San­dra Rae, is mak­ing jam and jelly for Christ­mas gifts, while Wyn­nyk sells juice and skin cream.

Though she es­ti­mates just 2 per cent of Cana­di­ans know about her golden berry, “peo­ple rec­og­nize the pas­sion we have for it,” she says. “It’s not a fad.” Buy and store

Look for frozen sea buckthorn berries at stores that cater to East­ern Euro­peans. Yummy Mar­ket sells 908-gram bags of berries from Lithua­nia for an amaz­ing $8.99.

Que­bec dis­trib­u­tor Ate­lier No16 ships two-kilo­gram bags of frozen berries from Ferme les Petites Ecores, which also makes a scrump­tious sea buckthorn-ap­ple but­ter.

In Au­gust, the pub­lic is in­vited to the Heal­ing Arc near Wing­ham, Ont., to har­vest and take home fresh and frozen berries, fresh juice, jam and skin care prod­ucts.

Chefs can or­der frozen berries through lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors Hilite Fine Foods and 100km Foods.

Nat­u­ral food stores carry sea buckthorn cap­sules, juice and cos­met­ics.

If us­ing as a gar­nish, keep berries frozen un­til just be­fore use as they soften quickly. Prep

This su­per-tart berry re­quires sweet­en­ing. Think honey, maple syrup or loads of white sugar.

The hard flat seeds can also be a prob­lem.

You hardly no­tice them in the whole berries, but if us­ing in jam or sauces, it’s best to strain them out and dis­card.

Af­ter juic­ing the berries, chef San­dra Rae dries and grinds the pulp for meat­balls, gra­nola, quick breads and muffins. Serve

Use sea buckthorn berries in­stead of lemon in mari­nades and vinai­grettes.

Add pectin to make beau­ti­ful jams and jel­lies.

To tame their tart­ness, pre­serve whole berries in honey or maple syrup and spoon over yo­gurt and gra­nola.

The berries pair well with duck, pork, chicken and fish.

Rae mar­i­nates salmon for an hour in crushed berries, bakes the fish and fin­ishes it with a maple-but­ter glaze and a few whole berries.

Hi­bis­cus Café in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket makes a very pop­u­lar sea buckthorn ice cream.

For smooth­ies, drop 1/4 cup (60 mL) stemmed whole berries into the blen­der with 1/4 cup (60 mL) water and buzz to break up seeds be­fore adding re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents.

Sea Buckthorn Jel­lies

Star Tested In­spired by chef Ryan de Leon of Qu­a­tre­foil, these sweet-tart jel­lies can be served with cheese or af­ter dessert. 2 cups (500 mL) sea buckthorn berries, fresh or frozen 1 cup (250 mL) water 11/2 cups (375 mL) gran­u­lated sugar 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweet­ened ap­ple­sauce 2 tbsp (30 mL) or 2 pack­ets pow­dered gelatin Line an 8x8-inch (20x20 cm) cake pan with plas­tic wrap and spray lightly with cook­ing spray.

Place berries and water in a heavy saucepan.

Bring to a boil, re­duce heat to low and sim­mer about 15 min­utes, un­til soft. Trans­fer berry mix­ture to a fine sieve placed over a bowl.

Press down on the pulp and seeds with a wooden spoon to re­lease the juice. You should have about 1 cup (250 mL) thick juice. Dis­card pulp.

Pour juice into the saucepan. Stir in sugar and ap­ple­sauce. Cook on low heat about 10 min­utes, stir­ring, un­til sugar melts. Re­move from heat.

Mean­while, in a small bowl, sprin­kle gelatin over 1/2 cup (125 mL) water. Let sit 5 min­utes, un­til soft. Whisk into warm juice mix­ture then pour into pre­pared pan.

Re­frig­er­ate three hours or overnight, un­til firm. Cut into cubes and serve im­me­di­ately. Re­frig­er­ate left­overs.

Makes 6 serv­ings.

CYN­THIA DAVID

Sea buckthorn berries, which have a flavour and acid­ity sim­i­lar to pas­sion fruit, form the base of these tart jel­lies.

TORSTAR NEWS SER­VICE FILE PHOTO

Sea buckthorn berries of­fer a tart burst of flavour.

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