An absolutely stunning summer day here in south-eastern Norway. After a long cold winter it looks like we’ll strike lucky with the July weather here in this sub-arctic corner of he world. Elsie and I took a hike in Kjekstadmarka this morning, a forest some kilometers south from where we live.
This is the time of year when different fruits and berries start to ripen here in the north. A quite common plant in our forests is the the bilberry bush. In Norwegian we call it blåbær which means “blue berry”, but it should not be confused with the American blueberry. The European bilberry is the predecessor of its American relative and differs in that it has dark red flesh, stronger taste and grows in the wild on low bushes. The American blueberry has light or white flesh and lighter taste, grows on larger bushes and is more commonly cultivated commercially.
But the real excitement for a typical Norwegian fruit-lover starts when you come upon one of the bogs that have just the right conditions. I have loved the peaty smells of bogs since early childhood (no wonder I also love a good smokey single-malt ;-)) and in the right time of the year you can be lucky and find the berries that grow here; the cloudberry (No: multe).
The cloudberry grows only in the far northern hemisphere; the Nordic and Baltic countries, Russia, Canada and USA. Some are also found in the high Alpes and Scottish highlands. It grows in bogs and marshes, requires acidic ground and exposure to much sunshine. The plant is a true northerner, it can easily survive winters of 40 – 50° C below zero.
It is regarded as a delicacy, particularly here in Norway, and demand is always higher than supply. There is not much commercial cultivation so most of what we eat come from the wild. It is very rich in vitamin C and the Nordic seafarers and the Inuits have always treasured it.
In Norway we commonly make jam from it, or mix it with whipped cream and sugar and serve it as multekrem. The Finns love it so much they put it on one of their coins, but for some reason they overlook the jam and dessert possibilities and prefer to make Lakkalikööri (liqueur) from it.
Mmmmm, best part of the year 🙂