By: Lewis and Nancy Hill
Grow Them by Land or by Sea
Seaberries are easy to grow and require little space. Because male and female flowers grow on separate plants, you need at least one of each sex to produce fruit. Flowers are pollinated mostly by wind, so space plants closely: 6 to 8 feet apart in rows, or 3 feet apart as a hedge. One male (distinguished by its larger flower buds) can pollinate five or six females.
Plant seaberries in spring in full sun. They grow in most soils, even sand or gravel, tolerate both seashore and road salt, and withstand drought well. They seem to do best in a well-drained soil (pH between 5.5 and 7.5). A thick organic mulch, renewed each spring with compost or manure, should supply all the other nutrients they need and protect the shallow roots. Seaberries grow quickly and usually bear their first fruits two to three years after planting. Some varieties produce 30 to 50 pounds of fruit per shrub annually, but it may take several years to reach maximum production.
Seaberries need little pruning, unless you want to train them into bushy shrubs or shapely small trees. From time to time, cut out damaged or unproductive branches. Prune in fall after harvesting the berries in late summer. The plants resist most diseases and insects, so spraying is seldom necessary.
Harvest berries when they are fully colored but still firm. Although birds like to nest in the shrubs, they aren't keen on ripe berries, so netting isn't usually necessary. Pick the berries by hand, or if the bushes are large, cut some of the branches and shake off the berries. This technique keeps the plant small and berries within reach for easy harvesting.
Wash the fruits, then puree them (or crush them with a potato masher). Strain the juice, discarding the seeds and pulp. Measure the juice (2-1/2 pounds of berries yield about 1 quart of juice) into a large pot, and heat to 120° F. Mix 1 part sugar or honey to 6 parts liquid, and continue heating until the sugar dissolves. Pour into sterilized bottles, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to six months. For a light, refreshing drink, mix the seaberry juice with other fruit juices, such as apple, orange, or raspberry, and soda water to taste.
Popular authors Lewis and Nancy Hill are the proprietors of Berry Hill Farm in Northern Vermont.