The magical properties of a tiny orange berry bring a unique vitamin boost to Cornwall.
Words by Lottie Lewis
Egronomist Seth Pascoe first discovered seaberries whilst trekking in the Himalaya Mountain range in Nepal. Along with his friend Kiran, they had taken on the challenge of hiking to Mount Everest base camp.
Right: Seth Pascoe
Middle: Seaberries growing in the Himalaya
As they ventured upwards, they both began displaying the symptoms of altitude sickness; breathlessness, grinding headaches, dizziness and nosebleeds. That night the Sherpa gave them a glass of bright, almost neon-orange juice. The Sherpa told them that he drank the juice for his general wellbeing and that it would help them cope with the altitude sickness. The next morning the pair woke up feeling considerably better and an idea was born. Seaberries are the fruit of the sea buckthorn. Found across the northern hemisphere, the plant can be traced back to 300BC, with references to the many health benefits and medicinal properties found throughout history by philosophers, conquerors, religious leaders and authors. “After coming back from the Himalaya,” says Seth, “I started eagerly researching sea buckthorn. The more I learnt about the amazing health properties of the fruit, the more convinced I became that we had to try and bring it to people’s attention.” Seth found sea buckthorn growing wild out on the Cornish coastline, showing that the plant could thrive just as well in Cornwall as it does in the Himalaya. It was the proof he needed, and so he began planting in earnest, establishing Cornwall’s first sea buckthorn orchard. The tangy, citrus-like taste of seaberries is often compared to mango, passionfruit and apricot. Considered a functional food, when they are consumed as part of a normal diet they demonstrate physiological benefits, and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases over and above their basic nutritional function. A resilient and versatile shrub, sea buckthorn can endure extreme temperatures, and grows in all manner of soils. However, soil health was also an important part of Seth’s plan. He firmly believes that to grow nutrient-dense, healthy crops, you need to start from the ground up, quite literally.
From the beginning, one of his main management principles was to strive to improve the soil health of his farm. To make his plants healthy, and less susceptible to pests and diseases, the Cornish Seaberry Company orchards are managed using regenerative-agriculture principles. Encouraging biodiversity and looking after the environment are also key priorities. Over 10% of the entire farm is dedicated to a wildflower meadow. Aside from the 2000+ productive sea buckthorn trees, they plant native tree species in hedgerows and field corners each year.
Bottom Right by John Hersey: Partnering with Tia Tamblyn (tiatamblyn.com) for an episode of her @breakfast_and_beyond podcast
Habitat creation for species such as birds, bees, bats and hedgehogs are ongoing projects. You’ll even find a mob of “four-legged, self-propelled wooly grass cutters”, also known as Seth’s flock of heritage breed Shropshire sheep. Roaming around the orchard, they quietly graze in amongst the trees, keeping the grass trimmed and cycling nutrients into the soil, subsequently improving soil health and fertility. The Cornish Seaberry Company’s main product is aptly named, VitaminSEA, a bright orange, healthy and delicious juice. Seth explains: “Pure seaberry juice is just that little bit too tart for most people’s taste buds. When we developed VitaminSEA, our priority was not only to deliver all of the healthy benefits from seaberries, but to do so in a tasty and 100% natural way.” Packaged into 250ml cans, each portion provides 76% of your daily vitamin C, plus lots of other health benefits too. Each of the small neon one gramme, orange berries are crammed with vitamin C, E and A. Being high in antioxidants and containing omega oils, they help our immune system to function correctly, hydrate and heal our bodies, and support our digestive functions and respiratory systems. Alongside VitaminSEA juice, you’ll also find Seth’s seaberries used by the Driftwood Spars Brewery in their Seaberry Saison, Gathered Botanical’s Seaberry Jelly Jam, Colwith Farm Distillery’s Seaberry Vodka, Ma Natural bath oils and Apple Natural snacks.
With the new year ahead, the Cornish Seaberry Company plans to just keep on doing what they’re doing: growing healthy and nutrient dense fruits that are good for the planet and people. Moving forwards from appearing on BBC programs such as Countryfile and Rick Stein’s Cornwall, Seth plans to continue raising the profile of seaberries: “We still get lots of people asking us what seaberries are, so clearly there’s much more work to be done in getting this amazing fruit out there.”