Wild blueberries grow in marshy woodlands all over Norway. You can usually tell when you’re close to a blueberry patch because the sweet smell tickles the tip of your nose. Norwegian brown bears love eating blueberries and so do the native woodland birds. It was by a lake up in Alta that I discovered my first Norwegian blueberry. Moose and I were bush-walking when he bent down and picked a berry and ate it. I gasped ‘Don’t eat that!’. ‘Why?’, he said. ‘Because it might kill you!’ (I had grown up with an ‘Aussie-sense’ of danger that everything in the bush can kill you or at least leave you brutally maimed.) Moose laughed at me, ‘It’s just a blueberry’. He picked one for me. Oh boy – a trust exercise (we had only been married for three months). It took me a moment but I managed to eat my first wild blueberry – straight off the bush, in the wild! Since then, I hang out for blueberry season every year.
Blueberry season is generally in late August in Tromsø but earlier in the south. The size and quality of the blueberry depends on the summer season. If it is a hot summer the berries can grow big and ripen quickly but if the summer is cold then the berries are smaller and take longer to ripen. Picking blueberries is one of our family traditions (two years running now). The first year we just used our hands to pick and they turned completely purple! So this year we decided to use a berry-picker and cleaning tray. Even though you can pick more berries you also prune the bush so it takes longer cleaning and sorting. (I think I prefer hand-picking as you are more selective and it’s easier for the squished ones to find your mouth.)
We took Lilu with us but she wasn’t keen on sitting in the marshes. However, she was happy to sit in her pram as Moose gave her a Birch twig to crew on. My ‘Aussie-sense’ kicked in again but Moose said that Birch trees are like the national chewing gum. Norwegian hikers munch on the woody fibres for a minty freshness and it is often used as an emergency toothbrush for campers. (Well, at least it will teach Lilu to like toothpaste.)
The best part about blueberry picking is making the blueberry food – fresh blueberry jam, muffins, cereal topping, sauces and pancakes. The first thing I did when we got home was make a waffle batter – I threw in some fresh blueberries and loaded up the waffle-maker. Mmmmh… cooking-blueberry smell. With some fresh cream on top and sprinkled with more wild blueberries, you have yourself a very ‘Merry Blueberry-now‘.