The sea buckthorn is a thorny shrub 0.5–3 metres tall. Its leaves are 1–5 cm in length and linear, greenish-grey above and silvery-grey to rusty-brown underneath. The sea buckthorn flowers in May, before its leaves appear. The plant is dioecious and wind-pollinated; the male and female flowers grow on separate individual plants. Its flowers are small, approximately 3 mm in diameter and yellowish-green. The berry is an elongated, yellow or yellowish-orange juicy drupe 8–10 mm long.
Wild sea buckthorn grows in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Åland Islands. The sea buckthorn grows best on pebbly, sandy or shingly beaches. Actinobacteria present in the root system of the shrub bind with nitrogen in the atmosphere, which enables the sea buckthorn to grow even in fairly low-nutrient soil. It does, however, require plenty of sunlight to grow.
Wild sea buckthorn berries can be picked beginning in October, when they have reached their peak ripeness and are easily detached from the base. The best time to pick the berries is after the first frost. The shrubs are thorny and dense, which can make picking difficult. The berries can be picked by hand or by tapping the branches with a stick, releasing the berries, which can then be gathered from the ground below. Collecting wild sea buckthorn berries by breaking or crushing the branches of the shrub is prohibited.
The sea buckthorn has the highest nutrient content of all the wild berries. It is rich in vitamins C and E, fibre and essential fatty acids. The amount of vitamin C contained in 50 grams of sea buckthorn berries is equivalent to a medium-sized orange. Approximately 4–7% of the berry’s weight is made up of oil in the pulp and seed consisting primarily of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Sea buckthorn is used in the food industry to make sauces, jams, berry powders and juices. Sea buckthorn oil is used in the preparation of dietary supplements and cosmetics. The berries can be enjoyed on their own or in porridge or yoghurt, for instance. They can be preserved by drying or freezing or in the form of juice or jam.