Rubus chamaemorus (Greek chamai "on the ground", moros "mulberry") is a rhizomatous herb native to alpine and arctic tundra and boreal forest, producing amber-colored edible fruit similar to the raspberry or blackberry. English common names include cloudberry, bakeapple (in Atlantic Canada), knotberry and knoutberry (in England), aqpik or low-bush salmonberry (in Alaska - not to be confused with true salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis), and averin or evron (in Scotland).
Unlike most Rubus species, the cloudberry is dioecious, and fruit production by a female plant requires pollination from a male plant.
The cloudberry grows to 10–25 cm high. The leaves alternate between having 5 and 7 soft, handlike lobes on straight, branchless stalks. After pollination, the white (sometimes reddish-tipped) flowers form raspberry-sized berries. Encapsulating between 5 and 25 drupelets, each fruit is initially pale red, ripening into an amber color in early autumn.
Distribution and ecology
Cloudberries occur naturally throughout the Northern Hemisphere from 78°N, south to about 55°N, and very scattered south to 44°N mainly in mountainous areas. In Europe they grow in the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. In Asia across northern Russia east towards the Pacific Ocean. Small populations are also found further south, as a botanical vestige of the Ice Ages; it is found in Germany's Weser and Elbe valleys, where it is under legal protection, and rarely in the moorlands of Britain and Ireland. In North America, cloudberries grow wild across most of northern Canada, Alaska, northern Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and there is a small population on Long Island, New York.
The cloudberry can withstand cold temperatures down to well below -40 °C, but is sensitive to salt and to dry conditions. It grows in bogs, marshes and wet meadows and requires sunny exposures in acidic ground (between 3.5 and 5 pH).
Wide distribution occurs due to the excretion of the indigestible seeds by birds and mammals. Further distribution arises through its rhizomes which can develop extensive berry patches. Cuttings of these taken in May or August are successful in producing a genetic clone of the parent plant.
Despite its modern demand as a delicacy exceeding supply (particularly in Norway) the cloudberry is primarily a wild plant. Wholesale prices vary widely based on the size of the yearly harvest, but can reach €10/kg.
Since the middle of the 1990s, however, the species has formed part of a multinational research project. The Norwegian government, in cooperation with Finnish, Swedish and Scottish counterparts, has vigorously pursued the aim of enabling commercial production of various wild berries (Norway imports 200 - 300 tonnes of cloudberries per year from Finland). Beginning in 2002, selected cultivars have been available to farmers, notably "Apolto" (male), "Fjellgull" (female) and "Fjordgull" (female). The cloudberry can be cultivated in Arctic areas where few other crops are possible, for example along the northern coast of Norway.
The ripe fruits are golden-yellow, soft and juicy, and are rich in vitamin C. When eaten fresh, cloudberries have a distinctive tart taste. When over-ripe, they have a creamy texture somewhat like yogurt and a sweetened flavour. They are often made into jams, juices, tarts, and liqueurs. In Finland, the berries are eaten with heated "leipäjuusto" (a local cheese; the name translates to "bread-cheese"), as well as lots of cream and sugar. In Sweden, cloudberries and cloudberry jam are used as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, and waffles. In Norway, they are often mixed with whipped cream and sugar to be served as a dessert called "Multekrem" (Cloudberry cream), as a jam or as an ingredient in homemade ice cream. They may also be added to cakes that often contain marzipan.
In Atlantic Canada, cloudberries are used to make "Bakeapple Pie". Canadians also use them for jam, but not on the same scale as Scandinavians. In Alaska and Northern Canada, the berries are mixed with seal oil, reindeer or caribou fat (which is diced up and made fluffy with the seal oil), and sugar to make "Eskimo Ice Cream" or Akutaq. The recipes vary by region. Along the Yukon and Kuskokwim River areas, white fish (pike, whitefish) along with shortening and sugar is used. The berries are an important resource for traditional foods to the Native tribes.
Tea made from cloudberry leaves was used in ancient Scandinavian herbal medicine to cure urinary tract infections.
In Nordic countries traditionally liqueurs such as Lakkalikööri (a Finnish liqueur) are made of cloudberry. It has a strong taste and a high sugar content. Cloudberry has also served as a spice for akvavit.
A cloudberry liqueur is also made in the northeastern Quebec region of Canada. The liqueur is known as chicoutai, which is the local aboriginal name for the cloudberry.
Nutrients and phytochemicals
Cloudberries contain citric acid, malic acid, α-tocopherol, anthocyanins and the provitamin A carotenoid, β-carotene in contents which differ across regions of Finland due to sunlight exposure, rainfall or temperature. The ellagitannins lambertianin C and sanguiin H-6 are also present. Genotype of cloudberry variants may also affect polyphenol composition, particularly for ellagitannins, sanguiin H-6, anthocyanins and quercetin.
Polyphenol extracts from cloudberries have improved storage properties when microencapsulated using maltodextrin DE5-8. At least 14 volatile compounds, including vanillin, account for the aroma of cloudberries.
The cloudberry appears on the Finnish version of the 2 euro coin. The name of the hill Beinn nan Oighreag in Breadalbane in the Scottish Highlands means "Hill of the Cloudberries" in Scots Gaelic.
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