Berry season is a delight in Norway. The cool summer climate makes the berries ripen slower and develops a wonderful sweetness and flavour. Berry season starts around late June with strawberries and finishes around the middle of October with black currants. There are many lovely berries in between that bloom in the forests naturally and start off a wonderful season of fresh desserts and jamming. Here are some of the most common picking berries in Norway:
Late June – Strawberries (jordbær)
Norwegian strawberries are highly prized because of their vibrant sweet flavour. They don’t usually look so perfect like the intensive farmed ones from Holland and they are picked ripe so they have a lovely redness inside. Strawberries are often eaten with just a sprinkling of sugar and a dollop of cream and they are a favourite for decorating cream cakes. Many Norwegians grow their own strawberries. Once a year shops have Norwegian strawberry specials where people stand in long lines to buy cases of strawberries. These berries are meant for home freezing and jamming to last throughout the Christmas season. Sometimes in the bigger cities street sellers sell Norwegian strawberries in punnets.
Norway also has a wild strawberry that grows in secluded places. It is very small but bursting with flavour. These berries are highly prized and some families have kept their special patch secret for generations. These strawberries can only grow in the wild and are slowly dying out.
Late July – Cloudberries (molter)
Cloudberries are a favourite in Norway and the most expensive berry to buy – this year they were NOK 350 a kilo! They are nick named Arctic Gold, ‘gold’ because of their colour, but these days the name is quite fitting for the price. Cloudberries only grow in the wild and one has to brave mountain climbs, swamps and mosquitoes to get to the good patches. They grow similar to strawberries with a system of underground vines. The berries are so delicate that they cannot be washed after picking otherwise they will disintegrate. There has been much research done on the clouberry but they are still not sure if the berry is pollinated by air or insects. But the berries need a long warm up to the season, lots of sun for the final ripening, to be at their best. The berries in the mountains take longer to ripen than the lowlands because it is cooler higher up. Norwegians have their favourite ‘personal’ cloudberry fields. It is a tragedy when someone else discovers your space and has picked before they are ripened, so much that it has actually been made illegal to pick unripened berries. When the berries ripen their tastes moves from a sour-bitter to a sweet apple-like flavour. Cloudberries are often eaten with just whipped cream – simple is best to capture the flavour. The berries make a lovely jam and because they are so delicate they naturally make a tangy sauce mixture which goes great with yoghurt and ice cream. Norwegians always pick more than they can eat fresh so they can freeze them for the winter season.
We are lucky enough to have our own private cloudberry swamp on the farm. The horses are too lazy to graze for berries but when we go picking they come calling.
For a comprehensive picking guide to clouberries see our post Guide to Clouberries
Crowberries (krekling or krøkebær)
These berries aren’t widely used because they are bitter and tough to eat. They are mainly used for juicing and are often collected as collateral as they often grow in the same areas as bilberries. They are a diuretic and because of this in Norway they are also called ‘piss berries’ (pissbær).
Mid-August – Morello Cherries (moreller)
Morello Cherries grow in Norway but are originally from China. They are a very common summer berry bought in the stores. These cherries are mainly eaten naturally but can be made into compotes.
These berries grow in the south of Norway as they like a warmer climate. They have a long picking season from August to October. They grow in peoples gardens but about 34 of the 40 species in Norway grow naturally in the wild, many of them are red-listed on the extinction list. They are very good for cake decoration and are warmed up to pour over ice cream. They are also eaten fresh over breakfast cereals or in fruit salads.
Late August – Bilberries (blåbær)
Also called the Arctic Blueberry, bilberries are a very common, naturally grown ‘blue berry’ in Norway.
They are found in wet forests usually on hillsides and in gullies. On the bush they are blue but when picked they turn black. The berries are purple inside and work well as a natural dye. It is well know that these berries are very good for you during the flu season. They have a higher nutritional content than shop bought berries and actually have as much omega3 in them as salmon.
The berries grow in abundance in Norway and are easy to collect. Berry collectors are used to quickly graze large areas. This seems like a good idea but it also plucks off many leaves and scrapes the branches. Berry pluckers can easily destroy good berry fields.
Another hazard is lemmings. The past year we had a lemming season in the North – a plague of lemmings swept over the land and bushes were depleted of good berries. We prefer the ‘fair picking’ method of hand work. This leaves the bushes intact, allows gentler handling of the berries and makes less cleaning afterward.
Bilberries are used for teas, desserts, breakfast, juices, cordial and as a jam on pancakes. We also love them in our smoothies.
There are two types of raspberries in Norway – wild ones and garden ones. The wild raspberries are a lot smaller than the traditional raspberry, more tangy and a little more robust. The leaves can be used for tea and have a medicinal value. They were brought to Norway in the early 1700s from Central Asia. These berries can act like a pest and grow aggressively when left to its own devices. The berries are used for cake decoration and filling, jams and sauces.
Early September – Cowberries (tyttebær)
Financially, cowberries are the most important wild berry. It is picked commercially and is used mostly in sauces and jams for game meat, meatballs and Christmas rib. Cowberries are used for a common Norwegian dessert called Troll cream – beaten egg white with the berries and sugar. The berries grow mostly on moist mountainsides on a small shrub, in clumps of three or four. Berry pickers are used to harvest them. They prefer cold summers and spread under ground like cloudberries. This is an old Norwegian medicinal plant used to cure urinary tract infections.
Late September – Red and Black Currants (rips and solbær)
These berries are native to Norway but do not grow wild anymore. It used to be a medicinal plant before they figured out they could make wine from it. It is a common plant in peoples gardens and they are also grown commercially in Norway. They are mainly used for juicing and jams, wines and liqueurs. Only a small amount is traded fresh. The taste is quite strong and so only a little in used for flavouring or topping cakes.
Moose berries (elgbær)
There is another type of berry that you have to watch out for as they can warn you of near danger. The elgbær, ‘moose berries’ or moose droppings, can be found on the forest ground all over Norway. When you spot these berries you know a moose has been there and you need to be on the look out.
Cows become very protective of their young and berry season can make for a dangerous situation in the wild if you manage to get yourself in between a cow and her young. As our whole family love picking berries together we also bring our dog. He roams freely checking out the place, running here and there but most importantly he makes enough noise as to scare any critter that would like to have a confrontation.
So if you find yourself in Norway during this wonderful berry season and you want to go picking make sure you do your back stretches, take plenty of buckets, wear water-proof boots and pants, a mosquito hat and warm clothes, especially a light beanie for your ears and maybe a dog to give the local critters a heads up that you are in their territory scabbing their berries. (I mean the fruit ones, not the ground ones.)