Still Loving the Lingonberry

Photo via Rosendahl

Food & Drink

Still Loving the Lingonberry

Lingonberries are to the Swedes what blackberries are to Americans. We introduced you to the lingonberry when we launched our magazine last fall. We love them so much, we thought we’d share a little more.

In Sweden, these beloved berries grow wild, attached to low evergreen shrubs of the woodlands and moorlands. Ripening in August and September, they are parted from their bushy sanctuary with a scrabbler (not the board game player), which is a wide fork-like tool that can strip the small bush in fast order.

How to eat them

The lingonberry is a staple accompaniment in Swedish food, specifically kaldomar (stuffed cabbage rolls), raggmunk (potato pancakes) and kottbullar (meatballs).

They also are known by quite a few colorful names such as cowberries, mountain or low bush cranberries, fox berries, mountain bilberries, red whortleberries or partridge berries.

Like any pretty face, lingonberries need a little makeup to convert their palatability for the taste buds. Their natural bitterness and hard skin is transformed with sugar into soft-skinned sophistication, making the bitter/sweet combination a perfect complement for fish, game and meat as well as desserts like rice pudding, breads and cakes.

Health benefits

The new berry on the block was dubbed a “superfruit” by Dr. Oz a few years back and taken over from his favorite, the blueberry, with multiple more health benefits.

Knowing how everyone is looking for reasons to choose their dietary ingredients, you’ll be pleased to know lingonberries pack a powerful antioxidant punch to neutralize the sun’s radiation and thus prevent skin damage. In addition, they are purported to ward off some cancers and prevent some types of infections. Bursting with pectin and natural preservatives they were a godsend in the past because they could be kept for months at room temperature.

This is one reason why Swedes encourage their children to put lingonberry jam into their porridge each morning and to have it as an accompaniment with many main meals.

Where to find

During August and September, lingonberries are sold fresh all over Sweden; in the offseason they are sold frozen.

Because they are consumed by the Swedes in such large amounts, they often are a staple in their freezers and purchasing 5kg bags at a time is not uncommon.

If you want to try them in the United States, you can find them at online retailers like Fika, Nordic House or Northwest Wild Foods. Or you can stop by your local IKEA to see if they carry lingonberry jam, jelly or drinks.

Grow your own

If you miss them enough, you may be able to secure a Lingonberry (Vaccinium vvitis-idaea) bush from specialist growers. It reportedly will need sun and grow quite slowly. The dwarf lingonberry, which grows less than 20 cm is native to Northern Canada, Alaska and the northeastern United States. The larger bush grows to 30 cm; both have whitish pink blooms.

Whether you want to eat, drink, mix, bake or cook with them, lingonberries are up to the task.

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