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Archive for September 18th, 2008

Lingonberries

Last weekend, J and I went up to Oulu, Finland, to visit his parents (yes, more travelling!… but after this point it seems we’ll be staying put in Tallinn for a while). Most of our time was spent not in Oulu (approximately halfway up the length of Finland on the western shore), but in Liminka, the small town outside of Oulu where my favorite Finn grew up.

During our relaxing weekend, we did something that many Finns and Estonians do in the fall– we hopped on some bikes and rode into the woods to pick berries. J’s father recommended a good spot for lingonberries, and once we got started, it didn’t take long to fill a whole bucket.

Lingonberries, which are apparently also called cowberries or mountain cranberries, are kind of similar to cranberries. They have a brilliant red color and are smaller than cranberries, and the taste is less sour and much less acidic than a cranberry. They also don’t have noticeable seeds to get stuck in your teeth. In Finnish they’re puolukat and in Estonian pohlad.

I must admit that a majority of the lingonberries in the bucket were harvested by J, who was doing an efficient job with his berry-picker. I, on the other hand, soon became entranced with the small blueberry patches I found, and began picking those delicate berries one by one. After quite some time, my fingers were stained a lovely childish purple, and this was all I had to show for it:

But no matter. We had our lingonberries, which we brought back to J’s parents’ home and cleaned using an ingenious contraption of his father’s.

The berries go in the funnel, and the center tube has a vacuum cleaner attached to it, so all the lighter things like leaves and twigs get sucked up, while the heavier berries fall through into the bucket below. It works, and our giant bucket was free of forest debris in no time.

Doing a little quality control

The best part is, all of those berries came back to Estonia with us, and now I have a whole freezerful to use up. I’m so excited about them. I remember occasionally gathering pick-your-own strawberries with my mother when I was a child, and we also grew a healthy crop of red currants in the backyard, but never before have I had such a huge stash of fresh berries that I helped gather myself, just waiting for me to use them. Growing up in the suburbs, one just doesn’t have opportunities like that. Now that I live in Estonia, where it’s very common for people to pick their own berries, apples, and mushrooms, I’d love to take full advantage of it.

Starting with those lingonberries. I already have some baking ideas. Anybody have any suggestions?

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