Surprising sources of vitamin C from northern climates

Surprising sources of vitamin C from northern climates

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

When you think about getting your daily dose of vitamin C, oranges and lemons are likely among the first things that come to mind. While citrus fruits certainly pack in plenty of the vitamin also referred to as ascorbic acid, they’re far from the only source of it. In ancient times, dwellers of northern latitudes ensured their intakes of vitamin C and prevented the dreaded disease scurvy with the herbs, nuts and berries that grew in their midst. Here are just a few surprising and tasty ways to boost your immune system and keep yourself battle-fit against seasonal ailments. 

Black currant

This tart berry is much more popular in Europe than it is back in the States. Because black currant bushes were considered carriers of a fungus harmful to pines and the timber industry, its cultivation was prohibited in many U.S. locations over the past several decades. If you’re in Britain, you’ll find the taste of black currant in the popular drink known as Ribena. In France, the liqueur known as Crème de Cassis is based on the berry. Not only do black currants pack a wallop of vitamin C, but they’re also plentiful in antioxidants, which is key to a glowing, youthful complexion. These plump, purplish berries make flavorful additions to smoothies, glazes, chutneys, pancakes and crumbles. For tempting blackcurrant recipes, see the website of the Blackcurrant Foundation of the U.K.

Sea buckthorn

Known as “Sanddorn” in German, this diminutive orange berry is found in abundance in Scandinavia, Russia, Mongolia and China. The long sharp thorns on its bushes can make picking these berries a painful and tedious affair, but those that manage to get their scratched hands on these little powerhouses can press them to produce a wonderful, nutritious juice. They can also be made into jams or liqueurs, or preserved in vinegar. The berry is also recognized as one of the best sources out there for the Omega 7 fatty acid, touted as an all-rounder for heart, skin and hair health. Sea buckthorn is available in oil form, and it finds its way into a range of topical beauty products, from shampoos to face creams. The Healthline website provides additional information concerning the benefits of sea buckthorn.

Rose hips

Once the roses of the season have faded, the bright red, shiny rose hips that remain on the bushes can be harvested for a variety of uses, including brewing tea. Known as “Hagebutte” in German, these autumn treasures find their way into jams, syrups and bread. In Sweden, even soup is made from them. In Hungary, rose hips are used to make a variety of the potent fruit brandy known as “pálinka.”


If you hate coriander, also known as cilantro, take heart in the fact it's not you but your taste receptors to blame. For those that don't think this easily-cultivated herb tastes like soap, add it fresh by the handful to salsas, soups, sauces and dips for both flavor and nutrition. Even coriander seeds contain beneficial amounts of vitamin C. If you happened to buy much more of the stuff than you could possibly use for a single meal, dry it out in the microwave or hang it up to air-dry.


The sweet and starchy chestnut has been an important part of the diet for many Europeans for centuries untold. The Castanea sativa, or sweet chestnut, is the only nut to contain appreciable amounts of vitamin C, along with manganese, vitamin B6 and copper. High in unsaturated, or “good” fats and fiber, they taste great not only roasted over an open fire at Christmastime but also as the glazed and candied “marrons glacés,” a treat popular in northern Italy and southern France. Sold in several German supermarket chains under the name “Maronen,” pre-cooked, peeled and vacuum packed, they’re a tasty addition to stuffing recipes. 

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