It’s no secret that MyHavtorn is one of our favorite brands. We were their first US retailer, and because their products are so effective and thoughtfully made from family farm to immaculate lab in Bollebygd, Sweden, they’re very close to our hearts. Since we've experienced the incredibly nourishing properties of sea buckthorn berries through their products, we wanted to take a closer look at just how these powerful berries are grown and harvested on the MyHavtorn farm in Sweden.
To find out why their sea buckthorn is (in our view) the best in the world and what goes down at harvest time in Bollebygd, read our interview with Robin, one of the dynamic duo at the heart of MyHavtorn. (If you follow us on Instagram, you've probably seen a video of his partner, Ingrid, picking leaves for their incomparable sea buckthorn tea.)
Ayla: What makes your sea buckthorn plants unique?
ROBIN: The sea buckthorn tree was one of the first plants established in Scandinavia when the land was no longer covered by ice, so there is a long tradition of growing sea buckthorn in Sweden. Our family has been farming on our land for the last 100 years. We have not only grown sea buckthorn, but also many other fruits and grains.
Sea buckthorn trees are like many other fruit trees: like an apple, you have plenty of different flavors and varieties, and some of them are better than others. You need to find the right one to provide you with what you need. The trees all have differences in color, flavor, and composition of nutrition. On our farm, we have five different varieties of females and males that fit together and have the right features that are perfect for oil pressing.
Ayla: There is a lot of activity at the MyHavtorn farm when you begin picking your sea buckthorn berries. When does harvest time start? And what do you do?
ROBIN: We are always excited when it is harvest time here! It is our most celebrated time of year. All year we are busy preparing the soil, planting, pruning, and caring for our trees, and then we start picking berries in the middle of August. Harvest time lasts for around 4 weeks.
We pick our sea buckthorn berries mostly by hand. That means standing or sitting all day by the tree and picking berries (1 kg of berries takes about 1 hour to pick, and in a good year, one tree can give 15 kg of berries). Spending that much time with the trees, they really become your friends. Picking sea buckthorn berries takes time. The branches are thorny, so we must be careful not to hurt ourselves. At the end of a long day we rest and massage our sea buckthorn oil into our hands.
You can also cut whole branches with berries and put them directly into the freezer, which is faster…but when doing that you lose harvest the coming year, so it's a balance between optimizing the harvest and keeping the tree young and healthy.
Ayla: What else do you have to do to ensure a good harvest?
ROBIN: The Sea Buckthorn trees are divided into males and females, and you need to have a good balance between them. A general rule is 1 male for every 10 females. For a good harvest, you need the pollination to be right. This happens in April/May, and it is the males who carry pollination by wind to the females. So at that time, you want specific weather conditions: no frost, not too much rain, and the right wind. But we cannot control nature, the wind and weather — it will do what it wants. All we can do is give the trees the proper conditions and hope for the best. The wonder of nature is awesome, and when there is a good harvest, nature comes forth with all its beauty.
Ayla: Do the male and female trees look different?
ROBIN: The big difference between male and females is that it is just the females that carry fruit. It is hard to see any difference between the trees until the fruit starts to grow. A trained eye can, in early spring, notice small cones on the males, which are filled with pollen that is then spread by the wind.
Ayla: Does the number of berries you harvest vary from year to year?
ROBIN: Harvests change every year. After one exceptional year of berries, we’ve had two years with fewer berries than usual, so now we are starting to prune the trees and branches to keep them healthy and give them a lot of love and caring. At the same time, we are planting more trees to keep the plantation young.
Ayla: We love being able to order products from you and have them made fresh to order! Do you press all of the oil you use for the products all at once at harvest time?
ROBIN: The harvest is a busy time, so we press oil as much as we are able after harvest. Otherwise, the berries are stored in the freezer directly after harvest. The freezer is the best way to store sea buckthorn berries; because of the high level of oil in the berries, they don’t stay fresh for very many days after harvest otherwise. Storing them frozen also gives us the possibility to add berries to a batch from other farmers we know with excellent trees, and to share our berries with others when needed so nothing goes to waste.
In pressing the oil, we first press the whole berry. The oil from the fruit contains much of the rare Omega 7 and 9 fatty acids, Pro-vitamin-A and Carotenoids. The fruit oil has a intense red color. Then the seeds are pressed for their high level of Vitamin E and Omegas 3 and 6. The seeds are small and hard, so one needs to have special press to get this rich oil. We then blend both oils together as the basis of all our products.
Who knew there were male and female sea buckthorn trees? Fascinating! Now MyHavtorn's "Swedish Love in a Bottle" tagline makes even more sense.
In any case, we can't get enough of these products, which are favorites of our customers as well as our team (Dara faithfully uses their Organic Facial Oil every night and goes into a panic when we're getting down to our last few bottles — it's an incredibly effective rosacea tamer). Click here to browse the selection of these made-fresh-to-order miracle workers.