Vaccinium vitis-idaea, or cowberry, the common english name and tyttebær the Norwegian name is more commonly known as lingonberry if you visit Ikea. It forms the sharpish berry sauce you get with your meatballs!
In fact, there are several ways you can eat the fruit and one of the recipes I will be sharing with you is one where the raw fruit is whipped with sugar – it is absolutely delicious – especially on lovely bread with sour cream!! A friend introduced me to this bad/delicious habit, but I have learnt to restrict myself!
I am glad that we picked quite a bit of fruit this last year and it is safely kept cleaned and ready for use in the freezer. Like the Bilberry, I use it in all sorts of recipes, sometimes even together.
Many will think that the Lingonberry is similar to the small cranberry and in many respects it is. They are both Vacciniums, similar in size; 5- 8mm, but the lingonberry is almost completely spherical whilst the cranberry has a very slightly elongated spherical shape.
Because the Lingonberry and Cranberry prefer completely different habitats, there is little risk of picking from the two species at the same time. But, both can be used in the same way and for similar recipes.
The Lingonberry is generally found on heathland and shrubby areas, but as discussed in my blog released 7 May, the Small cranberry grows in very boggy areas covered with sphagnum moss.
The next two picture were taken late September at 1100 metres over sea level. The red berries are
the Lingonberry and you can see that as they hang in bunches they are easy enough to pick. Unlike the bilberry (the red/yellow leaves), the fruit is pretty solid and bullet-like making them even easier to pick that that species. In the same picture is the Mountain Crowberry with their black berries, heather and some very short birch.
We are lucky enough to have some Lingonberry also growing in our garden, but in the two years we have been here I haven’t seen any fruit. Possibly this is because the plants are in shade and it has been very dry since we have been here, and our house is on rock. Therefore, with climate change even the native plants suffer. There is more fruit as one walks from our house into the protection of the woods. Often it grows on the top of extinct anthills, indicating how the seeds were transported.
The Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) and the Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ( Bearberry) are, in fact, the main reason that I thought to do this series of plants. I have already written about the similarity between the Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry ) and the Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog bilberry), and in that case mixing the one with the other won’t spoil a recipe. But because the Cowberry and Bearberry are so similar, mistakes can be made and although both edible, Bearberry is dry and tasteless and has large stones rather than small seeds.
I will talk about the Bearberry as the last plant in this series. But the second section about the Lingonberry is scheduled for 6 June 2023.