Mining for gold in the Arctic

Every August, Marielle Amelie Lind Hansen and her family venture onto the marshes of northern Norway, in search of an elusive golden berry 

Photo: Marielle Amelie Lind Hansen

Photo: Marielle Amelie Lind Hansen

Andøy, Norway. It’s the first week of August and the behaviour of the locals has changed dramatically. It is cloudberry season, and the hunt is on for this small, elusive berry known as the gold of northern Scandinavia. The season lasts for just one week before they all disappear.

Almost impossible to cultivate, cloudberries can be found growing wild in wet, acidic soil in Arctic and subarctic regions. These hardy berries, which are related to raspberriesm have 10 times more vitamin C than blueberries. They are also packed with vitamins A and E, iron and Omega 3 and 6.

This extremely short harvest, called ‘the cloudberry year’, is such an important event in the local calendar that people bunk off work, mark large areas of bogland with signs telling you where can and can’t forage and spin yarns to trick others into thinking there are no berries left. I’ve heard stories of old ladies staying up into the wee hours to sneak into the fields for their share of the glut, while landowners patrol their bounty with binoculars from the roadside. It’s also a time for celebration – a festival of socialising, gossiping and telling tall tales about the number of berries you’ve found.

In an average harvest, you might end up with around 7kg. My grandmother used to harvest nearly 30kg and would create a vast array of recipes from her yield, from cloudberry liquor to cloudberry cake. Whenever I think of her, I see her surrounded by orange fruit...

Anatomy of a cloudberry

Grows in moist, acidic soil in bogs and marshes across north Scandinavia, north America, north Russia and, very rarely, in the moorlands of Britain. 

Green, round-lobed, tooth-edged leaves on straight, branchless stalks. 

The drupelets of fruit start pale red then turn a yellow-amber in early autumn.The sweet, tart flavour is perfect in jams, tarts and liquers. 

Medicinal uses
Historically used to cure fever and dysentery. In the 17th century, seamen ate cloudberry jam on voyages to prevent scurvy. 

This is an extract from Mariell Amélie Lind Hansen's article in print issue 4 of Ernest Journal, on sale now. To read more about her annual family foraging trips in the marshes of Andøy, Norway, order issue 4 below.

Issue 4
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