Those who pick thistles expect to gather prickles
The sea buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides berries have been ripe for weeks now, however I have never seen them eaten by birds which is curious to me. However the flocks of winter visitors such as fieldfares I used to see in the Norfolk countryside in my youth – talking 1960s here as I am auncient (sic) – seem much rarer in an impoverished countryside. It is strong smelling. As you walk up the path from Cromer to the lighthouse there is a lot of it along the cliff top. It is very rich in vitamin C, & tastes OK if astringent. In one Ray Mears programme he harvested it by sliding a hand held tightly along a twig, but there are big thorns so this is hazardous. Various efforts are being made to make it easier to gather by breeding different varieties particularly in China as some species thrive in Asia’s arid heartlands. According to one website that claims to be a fount of sea buckthorn wisdom, http://seabuckthorn.co.uk/index.html“Ghenghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, one of the largest empires in the 13th century, relied on three treasures: well organized armies, strict discipline and seabuckthorn.” So now you know!
Rather easier to pick, if still rather thorny, the beautiful sloes from Prunus spinosa, the blackthorn. I will always remember two years ago seeing the blackthorn flowering at my dear friend Shirin’s funeral. On a less glum note they make excellent sloe gin and are supposedly best picked after they are bletted – hit by a frost. I guess without checking that this is related to the Norwegian word for soft bløt. What a gorgeous bloom on the skins. I understand that as with the buckthorn the frost causes tannins to be drawn back into the tree, but the claim in Wikipedia (where else?!) had no reference and I cannot check now.