What is Cloudberry? Scandinavia’s Most Sought-After Fruit

What is cloudberry, and why is it such a sought-after substance from the Nordic region?

While the Scandinavian landscape is home to a huge variety of delicious foods, from delectable salmon, to pickled treats, cloudberries are perhaps the most popular fruit in the area. One of the reasons for this is cloudberries are exceptionally difficult to grow, making them extremely rare.

In some parts of the world, these bright yellow berries, known for flourishing in the most unforgiving environments, are referred to as “Arctic Gold”. 

Found in jams and pastries throughout Scandinavia, cloudberries are cultivated by a select group of experts, who keep the location of their crops secret, for the most part. However, while cloudberries can be difficult to access, their fame dates all the way back to the time of the Vikings

Some Vikings even preserved cloudberries in various ways, taking them on long voyages.

Here’s everything you need to know about cloudberries, or “Arctic Gold”. 

What is a Cloudberry? The Basics

A cloudberry is a small but vibrant fruit, stemming from the plant, Rubus Chamaemorus. At a glance, it looks a little like a raspberry, with a yellow and orange hue. Despite the name, cloudberries aren’t actually “berries”. They’re part of the rosacea (rose) family of flowering plants. 

The same family is known for producing a range of different edible fruits, including pears, strawberries, apricots, plums, and even almonds. 

The plant that produces the cloudberry has beautiful white flowers. Unfortunately, even if you find one of these stunning shrubs, you may discover it doesn’t actually produce any fruit. The prized arctic plant can take seven years before it begins to bear any fruit at all. 

Additionally, the appearance of the fruit can often vary. The fleshy segments in a cloudberry, known as drupelets, can change in number depending on whether both the female and male plants are pollenating. Each berry usually has a minimum of four drupelets, and can have up to 20 depending on the conditions in the region. 

Where Do Cloudberries Grow?

Cloudberries are particularly popular in Scandinavian regions, as they thrive in cold environments, such as those available in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. 

These colorful berries can actually grow across three different continents, but they’re often difficult to find and need to be carefully cultivated by seasoned growers. In general, cloudberries appear mostly in peat-rich moors as well as mountainous locations, around the Arctic circle. 

They thrive most in acidic soil, which might be low in nutrients, which make them one of the few plants that can be cultivated in harsh polar regions. Throughout Europe, most cloudberries are located in Russia, as well as northern Scandinavia. They’re known as lakka or hilla in Finland, molte in Norway, hjorton in Sweden, and multebær in Denmark.

Though they’re extremely sought-after, cloudberries aren’t widely cultivated, because they’re so difficult to grow. They’re highly sensitive to weather and temperature, and can take seven or more years to produce any fruit. 

When is Cloudberry Season? 

The best season for cultivating cloudberries can vary depending on region. In most cases, these berries appear frequently during July, and often disappear by the middle of August. This brief harvesting time makes it extremely difficult to source large volumes of cloudberries for any purpose. 

Though cloudberries are known for thriving in harsh regions, weather conditions can harm the development of berries. Heavy rain and frost can prevent the plant from producing fruit, and the location of the flora can be important too. Patches in areas with heavy tree coverage tend to produce larger volumes of fruit. 

In Nordic countries, as well as other regions around the world, the demand for cloudberries often exceeds what’s picked on an annual basis, particularly in Finland and Norway where the berry is considered a national delicacy. Some municipalities have even implemented rules on where and how the berry can be collected. 

What Do Cloudberries taste like, and How are they Eaten?

The flavor of a cloudberry can be somewhat difficult to describe for those who haven’t tasted it. These berries are common in Nordic dishes, when they’re available, and produce a sort of tangy, tart taste when they’re ripe and fresh, due to their high vitamin C content. 

Interestingly, in the early days of Scandinavia, cloudberries were used as a kind of medicine for a range of ailments, including scurvy. Their taste can also vary depending on their level of ripeness. Over-ripe berries have a slightly creamy texture, and can almost be considered savory. 

Traditionally, cloudberries are frozen directly after they’re picked, and are saved for special meals, usually around the Christmas season. In Finland, these berries are usually enjoyed with warmed leipäjuusto cheese. In Sweden, on the other hand, cloudberry jam is frequently used as a topping for waffles and pancakes. 

In the Norwegian region, cloudberries are a common staple of a traditional holiday dessert, known as “Multekrem”, which is served with whipped cream.

Are Cloudberries Healthy? The Health Benefits

Cloudberries aren’t just popular for their rarity or unique taste. They can also be an extremely beneficial fruit from a health perspective. Cloudberries are packed with a range of minerals and vitamins. They’re one of the best sources of vitamin C among all fruits, which is one of the reasons they were previously used to help ward off scurvy. 

The vitamin C in cloudberries is often regarded as a fantastic resource for boosting the performance of the immune system. Additionally, cloudberries also house a large selection of polyphenols. These are a type of plant compound which could be useful for banishing various ailments. 

Polyphenols have been connected to everything from healthy digestion to a reduced risk of heart disease and even protection against diabetes and certain types of cancer. 

Cloudberries may also be an excellent source of magnesium, which is a mineral commonly considered crucial for maintaining good health. Since magnesium can often be difficult to find in most food sources, this makes cloudberries even more valuable in the superfood landscape.

The Magic of Cloudberries

Cloudberries are some of the most incredible fruits produced in the Nordic region. Around the world, they’re beloved for their unique taste and health benefits. However, the popularity of cloudberries far outweighs their supply. This makes it extremely difficult to find large amounts of cloudberries anywhere in the world, even in Scandinavia. 

If you’re hoping to get a taste of this amazing fruit for yourself, the best option is to visit the Scandinavian region in July or early August, during the harvesting season. You may even be able to find some Scandinavian or Nordic sellers offering their own cloudberry jams and preserves online.

Cloudberry FAQ:

Why are cloudberries so expensive?

Cloudberries are often more expensive than most forms of fruit available in the world today. That’s because they’re so difficult to cultivate. Demand constantly outweighs demand, allowing cultivators to charge more for cloudberry-based items. 

Are cloud berries healthy?

Cloudberries are considered extremely healthy. They’re rich in vitamin C, and also contain high levels of kalium, beta carotene, zinc, magnesium, and other polyphenols. They could even help to improve your immunity and assist in fighting off disease. 

Where can you buy cloudberries?

Due to their rarity, scarcity, and delicacy, it can be difficult to purchase fresh cloudberries online, or outside of the regions where they naturally grow. However, you may be able to find preserved versions of cloudberries available from some retailers online.

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