Rare berry explained

Lorraine Briscoe, LJI 

If you have ever driven by the orchard on Fairmount Road and wondered what they do with the orange berries that grow on those trees, here is the answer. They are sea buckthorn berries, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Their sour juice is marketed to athletes through health food stores in Canada and the USA as a natural supplement and energy drink.

Jocelyn and Julie Gaudreau are the owners of Les Argousiers du Lac- Brome Inc. In 2016 they planted 5,500 – over 11 acres – of these trees from Estonia. The first harvest came three years later. Harvest time runs for three weeks starting in mid August. Jocelyn is one of 13 children and harvest time is a family affair with many family members pitching in. Gloves are essential as the branches have tiny sharp thorns. The Gaudreaus’ three daughters work in the business and one son-in-law is the harvest team leader. There are two other small growers in the area, one in Roxton Pond and another in North Hatley. 

The sea buckthorn tree requires one male tree for every eight female trees and the male produces brownish flowers which pollinate via the wind. No bees are required. Asked if deer were a problem Pascal Laflamme, the harvest team leader, says “Sometimes they rub the trunk of the tree and cause damage but not more than that.” 

The 2023 harvest was not as good as in previous years due to the heavy rain. The owners expect to yield about 10 to 12 thousand kilos vs the 18,000 kilos they produced last year. Branches are cut from the trees, careful to leave behind at least 60% of the berries and then they are frozen inside refrigerated containers which are kept at -22 C. Once frozen a team of three works the machines that were made by Jocelyn, to separate the berries from their branches. The smaller berries are sifted out and rejected. Approximately 800- 900 kilos of berries a day are frozen during the harvest weeks. They are packaged into plastic bags and shipped to customers.