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Cow Berry

Cowberry also called lingonberry is a small evergreen shrub in the flowering plant family Ericaceae that bears edible fruit. It is rarely cultivated, but the fruits are commonly collected in the wild.

 

Cowberry shrubs are typically 10–40 cm in height and have a compact habit. They prefer some shade (as from a forest canopy) and constantly moist, acidic soil. The flowers occur in compact clusters at the ends of the branches, are cup-shaped, and vary from white to pink in colour.

 

Cowberries collected in the wild are a popular fruit in northern and Eastern Europe, notably in Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Karelia (Russia), where they can be picked on both public and private lands in accordance with the northern European tradition of “everyman’s rights”. Because the berries are quite tart, they are almost always cooked and sweetened before eating in the form of lingonberry jam, compote, juice, or syrup.

 

The raw fruits are also frequently simply mashed with sugar, which preserves most of their nutrients and flavor and even enables storing them at room temperature (in closed but not necessarily sealed containers). Cowberries served this way or as compote often accompany game meats.

 

Cowberries contain organic acids, vitamin C, provitamin A (as beta carotene), B vitamins (B1, B2, B3), and the elements potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In addition to these healthful nutrients, cowberries also contain phytochemicals that are thought to work against urinary-tract infections, and the seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Cowberries are used in herbal medicine. They were a major component in keeping people healthy in Sweden through the long winters without fresh vegetables.

 

A coarse porridge with fat salt pork and cowberry preserve was a classic meal of the winter, and a large crock of the berries preserved with sugar would be found in every larder. They have the additional virtue of being able to be made into preserve without boiling.

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