Cloudberries – a name that conjures up an ephemeral, sweet and delicate flavour.
Grown only in the wild, cloudberries crave acidic soil and moist conditions, and thrive in the cooler climes of Norway’s hills and fjords. They are a hardy delicacy that can withstand temperatures plummeting to -40°C.
Such a seasonal and sought after speciality only comes free if you venture into the mountains and marshes yourself. Or … you might be mopping your mouth towards the end of a Nordic feast at the historic Engrebet Café, Oslo, when the chef leaves his kitchen to head your way …
Tiago has heard your enthusiastic enjoyment of his Scandanavian fare (including tender reindeer with celeriac purée), and joins you at Edvard Munch’s favourite table, hot and tired from the evening’s busy service. He talks through each dish that he has painstakingly prepared.
Then Karolina, who has served all this sumptuous food, surprises you with a beautiful bowl of amber berries that she calls multer – cloudberries. Tiago explains that these Arctic tundra gems are a delicacy that the Vikings once loved too.
It’s the icing on the cake for my Viking-crazy son.
A raw taste of cloudberries is (apparently) quite tart, but made into jam or served with ice cream, they become something very special to be savoured. My son describes them as slightly sour but very juicy and creamy, and not unlike raspberries in appearance.
My husband and son are charmed by the Engebret Café’s traditional, warm ambience, its flavoursome food, and its genuine hospitality (which Edvard Munch must have loved too).
Perhaps Hávamál hospitality?
Hávamál’s take on hospitality is something I’ve been reading about in this book.
It’s a gift from my menfolk that has been long-shipped from the Viking Museum (well … flown via Norwegian Air). I’m intrigued by the ancient wisdom imparted through words spoken many hundreds of years ago (reproduced here with kind permission from Gudrun Publishing).
A guest needs
fine towels and friendliness.
A cheerful word
a chance to speak
kindness and concern.
It seems as if Tiago, Karolina and Aisata at the Engebret Café certainly understand that.
Cloudberries are not just Norwegian. They are highly valued in other Scandanavian countries (Sweden and Finland), and also grow happily in Northern Russia, the North of Canada and Alaska, and the Highlands of Scotland.
The Swedes like to dollop cloudberry jam (hjortronsylt) on waffles and churn cloudberries into ice cream too, the Finns make a strong liqueur from them called Lakkalikööri, and indigenous Arctic people use them in fish recipes.
And the chef was right – the Vikings did like cloudberries, and carried barrels full of them on expeditions. They understood that something within multer or molter prevented scurvy (skyrbjugr) – which also protected Fridtjof Nansen and his team of explorers on board their ship Fram. Lucky for them cloudberries were (and still are) super healthy, crammed full of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants.
Cloudberries by other names
Their Latin label is Rubus chamaemorus. But this perennial herb has many other evocative tags. English names include: bakeapple (Newfoundland and Labrador), low-bush salmonberry (Alaska), and knotberry (England). And in other tongues …
Muurain, lakka, hilla, or valokki (Finnish)
viddas gull (Norwegian nickname meaning ‘arctic gold‘)
For more beautiful photos and info on this very special berry, take a look at My Little Norway’s blog.