Sea Buckthorn (scientific name: Hippophae rhamnoides) is a shrub native to Russia, northern parts of China and Mongolia. It fits my criteria as an ideal experimental ingredient: all natural, flavorful, packed with health benefits.
I first read about Buckthorn in a fashion magazine where it described how Indian women used Buckthorn oil on their skin as it is considered their secret “fountain of youth.” Further research turned up a myriad of other benefits and uses. It contains Vitamin C, A, B1, B2 and E, Beta-Carotene, Anti-oxidants, and Flavonoids. In Russia, the oil is used to treat skin ailments and in China, it is prescribed for pain relief or a cough.
When ingested, Buckthorn oil promotes healthy blood circulation and acts as a soothing coating for the gastrointestinal tract. But the patient must beware -like many good things, too much Buckthorn oil can be toxic. No more than one tablespoon a day is suggested.
The Sea Buckthorn plant produces berries that are dried before being cold-pressed for oil extraction. In our chocolate lab we experimented with oil made by Mountain Rose Herbs that also cold-presses the seeds with the berries. The oil is thick like syrup with a deep orange/amber color. The aroma is somewhat nutty and flavor is reminiscent of flax seeds.
Currently, we are playing with buckthorn oil in white chocolate. The nutty oil pairs well with the sweetness of the white chocolate and the color is beautiful. A splash of orange juice adds some acidity and a touch of zest lightens up the creamy 36% cocoa butter white chocolate.
Perhaps the Buckthorn will work its way into a future truffle collection for Mother’s Day, Chocolate: The Fountain of Youth. Stay tuned…