For the Love of Lingonberries

Food & Drink

For the Love of Lingonberries

Lingonberry crepe
Photo: FoodNetwork

They get little attention compared to their berry brethren.

Here in the United States, when you mention their peculiar name, expect to get a puzzled look. Head to Sweden and its neighboring Scandinavian countries, though, and the lingonberry is bountiful and celebrated.

Americans tend to be most comfortable playing it safe when it comes to lingonberries, which are tart and sweet. Most ease in by drinking it as a juice or using it as a spread on a cracker or soft cheese, like brie or goat.

Compare that to the Swedes, who see few out-of-bounds options for the lingonberry. In the homes of Swedish families, you’ll find them served with everything from meatballs and herring to porridge and pancakes.

Perhaps this epicurean adventurism came after years of allemansrätten, literally meaning “everyman’s right,” which allows Swedes and other Europeans access to all land – public or private – to walk, cycle, ride, ski or camp. It also grants the right to pick wild flowers, mushrooms and berries, making the case that lingonberries have been recipe-tested for hundreds of years.

Outside of Europe, lingonberries typically are grown in the northern regions of North America, like Minnesota, Canada and Alaska – the cranberry-like fruit thrives in cooler climates and grows in abundance. So, get your recipes ready.

Lingonberry Jam
Photo: Al Johnson’s

Lingonberries are raising eyebrows and awareness among the food-savvy. One cheese monger at a specialty foods store in Richmond, Va., encourages curious shoppers to pair the spread with a simple cracker and cheese and then move on to the more authentic uses for the berry, like pairing it with gamey meats and delicious crepes. Found for now in gourmet grocers and markets, lingonberry spread can be embraced and enjoyed just like the others in the jelly and jam aisle. Can’t find it at your local shop? Al Johnson’s, (the Wisconsin restaurant with the goats on the roof), has started selling their signature lingonberry jam on Amazon.

Americans may be hesitant to leave their cranberries, but some have said that the lingonberry is the next blueberry. With just as many health benefit claims – ranging from decreasing diabetes to cardiovascular disease – they soon may become commonplace here. For now, frozen lingonberries can be purchased through Amazon and other online retailers, like FIKA, a growing Swedish café chain in New York.

Here’s a sweet lingonberry treat to get you started.

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