Botanical Name: Vaccinium vitis-idaea
Species: V. vitis-idaea
Common Names: Lingonberry, Partridgeberry, Mountain cranberry or Cowberry
Habitat: Lingonberry is native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America. Lingonberries are picked in the wild and used to accompany a variety of dishes in Northern Baltoscandia, Russia, Canada and Alaska. Commercial cultivation is undertaken in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and in many other regions of the world. It grows on Sunny mountain meadows, peat moors and pine woods, on acid soils.
Lingonberry spreads by underground stems to form dense clonal colonies. Slender and brittle roots grow from the underground stems. The stems are rounded in cross-section and grow from 10 to 40 cm (4 to 16 in) in height. Leaves grow alternately and are oval, 5–30 mm (0.2–1.2 in) long, with a slightly wavy margin, and sometimes with a notched tip.
The flowers are bell-shaped, white to pale pink, 3–8 mm (0.1–0.3 in) long, and produced in the early summer.
The fruit is a red berry 6–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) across, with an acidic taste, ripening in late summer to autumn. While bitter early in the season, they sweeten if left on the branch through winte.
There are two regional varieties or subspecies of V. vitis-idaea, one in Eurasia and one in North America, differing in leaf size:
*V. vitis-idaea var. vitis-idaea L. — syn. V. vitis-idaea subsp. vitis-idaea.
Cowberry. Eurasia. Leaves 10–30 mm (0.4–1.2 in) long.
*V. vitis-idaea var. minus Lodd. — syn. V. vitis-idaea subsp. minus (Lodd.) Hultén.
Lingonberry. North America. Leaves 5–18 mm (0.2–0.7 in) long
Lingonberry has been commercially cultivated in the Netherlands and other countries since the 1960s. Empress Elizabeth ordered lingonberry to be planted all over Peterhof in 1745.
Some cultivars are grown for their ornamental rather than culinary value. In the United Kingdom, the Koralle Group has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
The berries are quite tart, so they are often cooked and sweetened before eating in the form of lingonberry jam, compote, juice, smoothie or syrup. The raw fruits are also frequently simply mashed with sugar, which preserves most of their nutrients and taste. This mix can be stored at room temperature in closed but not necessarily sealed containers, but in this condition, they are best preserved frozen. Fruit served this way or as compote often accompanies game and liver dishes.
In Sweden and Norway, reindeer and elk steaks are traditionally served with gravy and lingonberry sauce. Preserved fruit is commonly eaten with meatballs, as well as potato pancakes. A traditional Swedish dessert is lingonpäron (literally lingonberry pears), consisting of fresh pears which are peeled, boiled and preserved in lingondricka (lingonberry juice) and is commonly eaten during Christmas. This was very common in old times, because it was an easy and tasty way to preserve pears. In Sweden and Russia, when sugar was still a luxury item, the berries were usually preserved simply by putting them whole into bottles of water. This was known as vattlingon (watered lingonberries); the procedure preserved them until next season. This was also a home remedy against scurvy.
This traditional Russian soft drink, known as “lingonberry water”, is mentioned by Alexander Pushkin in Eugene Onegin. In Russian folk medicine, lingonberry water was used as a mild laxative. A traditional Finnish dish is sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, either cooked or raw with sugar. In Finland, a porridge made from the fruit is also popular. In Poland, the berries are often mixed with pears to create a sauce served with poultry or game. The berries can also be used to replace redcurrants when creating Cumberland sauce.
The berries are also popular as a wild picked fruit in Eastern Canada, for example in Newfoundland and Labrador and Cape Breton, where they are locally known as partridgeberries or redberries, and on the mainland of Nova Scotia, where they are known as foxberries. In this region they are incorporated into jams, syrups, and baked goods, such as pies, scones, and muffins.
In Sweden lingonberries are often sold as jam and juice, and as a key ingredient in dishes. They are used to make Lillehammer berry liqueur; and, in East European countries, lingonberry vodka is sold, and vodka with lingonberry juice or “mors” is a popular cocktail.
The berries contain plentiful organic acids, vitamin C, vitamin A (as beta carotene), B vitamins (B1, B2, B3), and the elements potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
In folk medicine, V. vitis-idaea has been used as an apéritif, astringent, antihemorrhagic, anti-debilitive, depurative, antiseptic (especially for the urethra), a diuretic, a tonic for the nervous system, and in various ways to treat breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, rheumatism, and various urogenital conditions.
In traditional Austrian medicine the fruits have been administrated internally as jelly or syrup for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and urinary tract, and fever.
Medicinal use by Native Americans:
The Upper Tanana eat the berries or use their juice to treat colds, coughs and sore throats.
The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, refrigerant. They are used in the treatment of gonorrhoea, arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes and diarrhoea. The leaves are gathered in early summer and dried for later use. The mature fruits are eaten fresh or dried as a remedy for diarrhoea and as a treatment for sore throats, coughs and colds. The juice has been gargled as a treatment for sore throats.
The berries are an important food for bears and foxes, and many fruit-eating birds. Caterpillars of the case-bearer moths Coleophora glitzella, Coleophora idaeella and Coleophora vitisella are obligate feeders on V. vitis-idaea leaves.The Nihithawak Cree use the berries of the minus subspecies to color porcupine quills, and put the firm, ripe berries on a string to wear as a necklace. The Western Canadian Inuktitut use the minus subspecies as a tobacco additive or substitute.
Known Hazards: Tea should not be drunk on a regular basis because it contains the toxin ‘arbutin’
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.