Botanical Name: Empetrum nigrum
Species: E. nigrum
Common Names: Crowberry, black crowberry, or, in western Alaska, Blackberry
Habitat: Crowberry is native in the Falkland Islands.Grows on Moors and mountain tops, and in the drier parts of blanket bogs.
Description: Crowberry is a flowering plant species in the heather family Ericaceae with a near circumboreal distribution in the northern hemisphere.
It is usually dioecious, but there is a bisexual tetraploid subspecies, Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum, that occurs in more northerly locations and at higher altitude.The leaves are 3–6 mm (0.12–0.24 in) long, arranged alternately along the stem. The fruits are drupes, 4–6 mm (0.16–0.24 in) wide, usually black or purplish-black but occasionally red.
Crowberry can be grown in acidic soils in shady, moist areas. It can be grown for the edible fruit, as a ground cover, or as an ornamental plant in rock gardens, notably the yellow-foliaged cultivar ‘Lucia’. The fruit is high in anthocyanin pigment, and can be used to make a natural food dye.
Propagation: Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be very slow to germinate, stored seed requires 5 months warm then 3 months cold stratification at 5?C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 3cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Takes 3 weeks. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, 3cm with a heel, October in a frame. Requires shade. Good percentage.
In subarctic areas, Crowberry has been a vital addition to the diet of the Inuit and the Sami. The Dena’ina (Tanaina) harvest it for food, sometimes storing in quantity for winter, and like it mixed with lard or oil. The fruits are usually collected in fall, but if not picked they may persist on the plant and can be picked in the spring.
Fruit – raw or cooked. It can taste slightly acid or insipid. Not very desirable, it tastes best after a frost. A watery flavour, it is mainly used for making drinks, pies, preserves etc. The Inuit dry or freeze them for winter use. The fruit can hang on the plant all winter. The fruit is about 7.5mm in diameter. A tea can be made from the twigs.
The leafy branches have been used, especially for children with a fever, as a diuretic. It has also been used to treat kidney problems. A decoction or infusion of the stems, or the cooked berries, have been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. A decoction of the leaves and stems, mixed with Hudson Bay tea and young spruce tree tips, has been used in the treatment of colds. A decoction of the roots has been used as an eyewash to remove a growth.
Other Uses: A purple dye is obtained from the fruit. Can be used for groundcover in exposed locations. Plants should be spaced about 25cm apart each way.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.