Lingonberries

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Ken Anderson, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Growing Lingonberries

    I thought I had written about lingonberries before but I don’t see it here, and it doesn’t turn up on a search, so I’ll do that now.

    One side of my driveway in Millinocket is lined with rocks, creating a narrow rock garden between the driveway and the fence. In that area, I planted eight lingonberry plants several years ago, and I can’t even count the number of plants that are there right now, as lingonberries spread very fast once they get established.

    A lot of people in the United States are unfamiliar with lingonberries. I know of them because my parents came here from Sweden, and lingonberries were very familiar to them there.

    Lingonberries are also known as cowberries, foxberries, quailberries, partridgeberries, bearberries, beaverberries, cougarberries, mountain cranberries, red whortleberries, lowbush cranberries, mountain bilberries, rock cranberries, whimberries, and redberries.

    The berries themselves are small, red, and very much edible, looking very much like cranberries, although cranberries don’t taste very good right off the bush, while lingonberries do. They are similar to cranberries, but not as tart. They are related to both cranberries and blueberries.

    They grow on small evergreen shrubs, growing to be only a few inches tall, with varying heights depending on the variety.

    In the wild, they are native to the Scandinavian countries, Alaska, and northeastern Canada. As this might indicate, they do very well in cold weather. The plants remain green beneath the snow all winter. In fact, given that they are growing along my driveway, all the snow from the driveway gets blown or shoveled on top of the lingonberries.

    Apart from the fact that they are very hardy to cold temperatures, they thrive on being ignored. One of the worst things you can do to them is to pamper them. They do well in poor soils, and don’t require anything in the way of fertilizer.

    They like peat moss. To prepare my lingonberry beds, I stacked the rocks, then placed several layers of damp newspaper on the ground to prevent grass or weeds from growing through. Then I added a a mixture of about fifty percent top soil and fifty percent peat moss. They like peat moss, so every now and then I’ll add a thin layer of peat moss to the beds.

    Prepared in this way, I have to weed out some dandelions and sometimes some grass during the summer, but there isn’t much of a problem with weeds. Once the lingonberries began to fill out the space, there isn’t a lot of room for weeds.

    Other than that, they do best when they are ignored. Over-watering them can be a problem, and they mostly do well with the amount of rainfall that we get in Maine. I might give them a little water if we go a couple of weeks without rain, but I seldom water them.

    I do add a small amount of fresh compost every now and then, but a very small amount, and I’m not sure if they even need that.

    In order for them to flower and produce fruit, you need to have at least two different varieties of lingonberries. I have four. Beginning in mid-summer, the lingonberries begin to produce fruit and they continue to produce fruit throughout the summer and into the fall.

    The summer after I planted the eight plants, several new ones began coming up, and each year after that, more of them appeared. I have extended my rock garden on both ends, and eventually they would make their way over there, but I am buying a couple of more plants, as well as some lingonberry seeds this spring, so that I can get a bigger crop quicker.

    Lingonberries are good in jam, jellies, juice, sauce, and wine. But mostly, I eat them directly after picking them. My mom used them as a garnish for pancakes and waffles, as well. They can also be used in pies if you get enough of them.

    This summer, I will prepare a place to begin them on my land up north too but I probably won’t plant any until the following spring. Once they get established, I think they will spread even to areas that I haven’t prepared.

    I don’t expect to actually get to eat very many of the ones I might grow up north because we have bears and birds and things that will probably get to them before I do.

    Here are a few photos of lingonberries, although they are not mine. I have pictures of my plants somewhere, but I don’t feel like searching for them right now.

    lingonberries1.jpg lingonberries2.jpg
     
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  2. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    The name sounds similar to "Loganberries", but the pix are different. My -ex suddenly asked me to stop, in the middle of nowhere Northern Nevada many years ago (we were heading to Virginia City from Carson City); she had spotted a familiar something up the mountainside. Loganberries! . Sharp-eyed chick (sharp looking, too!), we hiked up and picked a few bagsful About the color of red Raspberries, rather elongated, delicious! Growing wild, in the desert.

    All the things I experienced during these sojourns from smelly Chicago convinced me that, one day, somehow,.......
     
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  3. Linda Binning

    Linda Binning Very Well-Known Member
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    I love the Lingonberries and how they are served almost everywhere in Sweden. Over here we get them at the cafeteria in Ikea furniture store. Ken, what part of Sweden did your parents come from and have you visit there?
     
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  4. Ruby Begonia

    Ruby Begonia Veteran Member
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    I've heard that lingonberry jam is served with Swedish meatballs, true?
     
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  5. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Senior Staff
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    This is a very interesting thread, @Ken Anderson , and we have those in north Idaho, too. The berries in your pictures are much more prolific than the wild ones that grow in Idaho, but the leaf and plant looks almost identical.
    The ones up there always reminded me of a cranberry, too; so I thought they might be in the same family.
    I remember my dad showing them to me when I was a little girl. He called them by the Native American name of "kinnikinnick" and also bearberry.
    These are also called "uva ursi" (which translates into bear berry), and are what is used in Doan's Pills for the liver and kidneys.
    Although I have eaten many of these berries, the ones in Idaho do not have much flavor and are kind of like eating a bit of sawdust with seeds in it.
    Since they are so beneficial for the liver and kidneys; I have thought about trying to grow them here , but I don't know if they would grow this far south.

    Edit to add: I just looked it up again, and they are NOT the same berry; but do look very much alike. The little kinnikinnick plants are low and creeping and tasteless, and the lingenberry is upright and has more flavor. But, here is the info on kinnikinnick, and you can see how similar they appear.

    http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/arc_uva.html
     
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    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
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  6. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Very Well-Known Member
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    I know I've heard of them before, but perhaps it was on a cooking forum or site. I suppose since they do well in colder weather areas, they probably wouldn't do well here. I love the idea of a berry that's similar to cranberries and blueberries, since I love both of them. How nice to find a berry that survives under snow, and doesn't require (or like) a lot of fuss. That sounds like my kind of plant!
     
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  7. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    They were from different small towns in Varmland County. As I remember, they said they were born in towns only a few miles from one another, but the families didn't know one another until they moved to the same part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. No, my journeys outside of the United States have been limited to Canada and Mexico. One of my older brothers went though. While he was stationed in Europe, he took his leave and traveled to Sweden rather than coming home. He was able to find some distant relatives.

    When they are in season, lingonberries are served with a lot of dishes, but I wasn't aware of any specific affinity between the lingonberries and meatballs. When they weren't in season, we still had them in jellies and sauces, which are very much like cranberry sauce.
     
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  8. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I am about to order a couple of lingonberry plants and some seeds, to see about expanding the lingonberry patch I have along my driveway. Next year, I think I'll introduce some to our land up north, as well. If nothing else, the bears will probably like them. Did you know that black bears spend a great deal of their time picking berries and digging for ants? You'd think that something that weighs a few hundred pounds wouldn't bother with such stuff but that's a large part of their diet, and they will pick a raspberry off of the plant without harming the plant. We have a few anthills on our land up north, especially along the edges of the potato fields, and they dig them up every year. Growing lingonberries is easy, and well suited for cold Northern climates.
     
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  9. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    My new lingonberries came. Three of them, of two varieties, and I planted them this morning. The lingonberry seeds also came. I had never planted them from seed before but I planted the new plants on the far end of the rock garden from the other lingonberries, and planted the seed in between. Since I've never grown lingonberries from seed before, I don't know what to expect but I can tell you that they are the smallest seeds I've ever seen. Normally, I suppose they are within the berries, and I have several new plants that grew out from berries dropped by the adult plants. Being an impatient person, I'm thinking of buying another couple of established plants to fill out my patch more quickly since, even if the seeds to grow, it will be a few years before they produce.
     
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  10. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I knew I would. I ordered six more plants. One thing to remember about lingonberries is that at least two different varieties are necessary in order for them to be productive, and only two are readily available. Although there are several varieties, most nurseries only carry one type and most of them carry the same variety, while several don't even tell you which variety they are offering. I began my lingonberry patch with four different varieties but it was hard to find a couple of them. My new plants are of the two most common varieties, plus a couple unidentified ones. With the three I just planted, as well as the seeds, my lingonberry patch should be pretty good in a year or two.
     
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  11. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    OH yes I know Lingonberries very well. As @Linda Binning said they are served with everything (not meatballs) in the Ikea restaurant. We can buy Lingonberry jam, jellies, Drinks. and many other foodstuffs... I'm not keen on the taste I must admit, but the Swedish love them.
     
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  12. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    [​IMG]
    My lingonberry patch is along my driveway, although a small section in the foreground has my rhubarb, which is barely visible so far. That little bit of red is a rhubarb from last year. Originally, the rhubarb section was separated from the lingonberry patch but I added a piece of garden onto both ends, filling in the space in between. I still have a lot of room to continue along the fence, close to the street.

    [​IMG]
    These grew from six to eight plants, one of which died shortly after being transplanted into the garden. When we moved in here, the privacy fence strips were all intact but the child of one of the several people who have lived in the house next door since we've been here spent his days peeling the privacy fence strips off. Usually, the lingonberry plants are greener in the spring but normally our grass is still green when the snow melts, but it's all brown this year. This was a strange winter. Although a mild one, the temperatures kept going up and down drastically, probably confusing the plants. It looks like they will all survive but they're not as green as they usually are.

    [​IMG]
    These are the three that I planted a few days ago, on the far end of the patch.

    [​IMG]
    Between the old and new lingonberry plants, I planted the seeds. Not sure whether the seeds will be successful, I have ordered some more started plants, that I will plant in between in order to hurry things up. Then, if the seeds make it, they will simply thicken the patch, and add more varieties of lingonberries, since I was able to find more varieties available from seed than from started plants.
     
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  13. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Most people don't like them straight from the plant, as I do, and a lot of people use them in conjunction with other berries in order to add tartness, much as they do rhubarb.
     
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  14. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Senior Staff
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    I would like to grow something like this, and i have been looking online to see if it can grow in the south. Some people say it grows here, some say it dies.
    I checked out cranberries, and got about the same results.
    Then I looked up info about germinating the seeds, and it looks like people can germinate cranberry seeds, and they are also said to grow in kind of a ground-creeper way.
    I might try sprouting some seeds and see if they will grow in a container, and then set some out. The plants were fairly expensive, and if I got some, I would probably only try one and see if it grows here. Starks Nursery said they are good to zone 7, and I live in a zone 7b; so it might be worth at least trying to grow some.
     
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  15. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    That may work. It's worth a try anyhow. I know they don't die when the temperatures get high here in the summer. It could be that they require a period of dormancy in the winter, but I don't know. I have always considered them to be a northern cold zone plant. There are so many berry plants that won't do well in our weather so I like having one that seems to like it.
     
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