Rønningen Ramblings: Berry in the Clouds

Heidi carefully picks ripe multe to store for the upcoming winter. Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch

Heidi carefully picks ripe multe to store for the upcoming winter. Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch

By Heidi Håvan Grosch

Norwegian American Weekly

Heidi Håvan Grosch was a long-time Minnesotan until she married her favorite Norwegian, Morten Håvan. She moved to his home country of Norway, and as a recent immigrant, she is experiencing Norway with a unique perspective, filling us in on the good, the bad, and the unexpected! She is a regular columnist for the Norwegian American Weekly.

It’s berry season here in Norway, and this year they are in abundance. Rarely a day goes by without some sort of stain on my fingertips from picking. There are wild raspberries in the ditches, blueberries in the forest and rips (red currents) and solbær (black currents) hanging heavy from bushes. And… up in the mountains, in the marshy areas moose are fond of (but I can’t tell you where since these good berry spots are closely guarded secrets!), you will find a small, round, yellow berry that can save you from scurvy, decorates a coat of arms in the Norwegian town of Nesseby and is pictured on a Finnish coin. It’s the Multe (or Molte) berry, also called the cloudberry. It can be found in the northern mountain climates of Scandinavia, the United States (especially in Neb. and Alaska), Canada and Siberia/Russia.

Its scientific name sounds like a character straight out of a Harry Potter novel: Rubus Chamaemorus (ROO-buss Kam-may-MORE-us). Many of its other names are just as unusual:

Kruipbraam or Gele bosbraam (Dutch)

Mûre des marais, Plaquebière, Ronce

des tourbières, Ronce petit-mûrier or

Mûre arctique (French)

Moltebeere or Multebeere (German)

Ostružiník moruška (Czech)

Camemoro or Mora artica (Italian)

Luomi (northern Sami)

Amora-branca-silvestre (Portuguese)

Naunraq or Atsalugpiaq (Yup’ik)

Artica, Mora de ronces, Camemoro (Spanish)

Like many other popular fruits and berries, Multe are found growing wild and the hunt in the late summer is a passion for many Norwegians, that makes sense, since Norwegians eat more multe than any other country. Multekrem (multe berries made into a jam and whipped into cream) is a dessert staple of any Jultide feast and of course must be served with Krumkake after a meal of Sodd (the meatball and broth dish famous in Nord-Trøndelag).

When the berries are young they are red and hard, with a paper-like covering. As they ripen, they soften and turn a golden honey color, the wrapper pulling away to form a petal-like base for the berry. It is illegal in some places in Norway to pick berries that aren’t ripe, even though your chances of being stopped are about as likely as being stopped by the border patrol on a return trip from Sweden with a few extra bottles of wine.

I remember my first picking experience fondly. I wore the required rubber boots and had my bucket. A big bucket. My in-laws just shook their heads, but I was optimistic. I would get a lot of berries, I was sure. We got to the right spot and I looked everywhere, expecting multe to grow on bushes like raspberries or domesticated blueberries. When I discovered that they grew on small individual plants about the size of a stalk of clover and were scattered hither-thither all over the place, I knew why my huge bucket had been slightly optimistic. It turned out to be a bit like a scavenger hunt, and not surprisingly, my bucket wasn’t even close to half full when we were done for the day.

Even though they are experimenting with cultivation in the Tromsø area, Norway imports 200-300 tons from Finland each year to meet the high demand… I guess we just can’t pick enough!

My husband got a look of panic on his face the other day when I told him we need to buy another freezer. But we have a few more years before the three cherry trees I planted last year begin to add to our annual berry picking chores! Meanwhile, we have plenty of other berries to keep us picking for at least a few more weeks.

For more information on Multe, go to:

(Purdue University: Center for New Crops and Plant Products – English site)

Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research – link to English page

Visit Heidi’s website at heidigrosch.com

This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly on Aug. 11, 2009. For more information about the Weekly, call us at (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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