Cloudberries

Hjortron


Cloudberries (rubus chamaemorus) are probably the most sought after berries in Sweden.  The berries grow in the wild and are extremely difficult to cultivate, but their golden yellow colour makes them distinctive. They have a particular place of honour in Swedish cooking and so cloudberry based desserts are often chosen for special occasions.

Where they grow

Cloudberries growing in the wild

Cloudberries are related to raspberries but the plant is much smaller, growing to only around 20 cm high. In Sweden the plants are normally only found in the north, but they can occasionally be found in the south. They are usually only found growing in the wild because it is very difficult to create the right conditions to cultivate them commercially.

Cloudberries growing in boggy areas in northern Sweden

They are quite fussy about where they grow as they need acidic soil on high boggy ground, so look out for water-logged areas in mountainous areas of Sweden. Provided the soil is right they are extremely hardy and can stand temperatures down to -40°C.

The berries tend to be easy to find as they grow on upright stems, each stem boasting just a single berry. The plants begin to flower in June and the berries usually ripen in July. At first the berries are red, but then as they ripen they turn a beautiful golden yellow colour. The season is very short: often they've all gone by mid-August.

Their taste

The author with some freshly picked cloudberries

As the berries ripen they become softer, sweeter and juicier. I couldn't resist eating some just after picking them, but most people find them rather seedy and a bit too sour to eat on their own.

Health Benefits

Raw cloudberries are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants. These benefits are no doubt off-set by the sugar in the jam!

Cloudberry Jam

Three jars of cloudberry jam

Cloudberries can be bought fresh in Sweden, but I've never seen them sold fresh anywhere in the UK. Even in Sweden they are not easy to buy as they are soft and do not appreciate being handled much. They are also rather expensive as they have to be gathered in the wild. Most Swedes either buy them frozen or use jam, which is called hjortronsylt. Since raw cloudberries can taste a little tart they are actually rather nice as jam because the result is a nice balance of sweetness and acidity.

A dish of cloudberry jam

In the UK, cloudberry jam can be bought in specialist shops or ordered online. It is usually sold under the name hjortronsylt, rather than cloudberry jam.  Whilst jam is obviously not quite the same as fresh cloudberries it can be used well in desserts.

Cloudberry liqueur

A bottle of cloudberry liqueur

Look out for a cloudberry liqueur called Lakka. It is made in Finland and is very useful as an ingredient in cloudberry desserts. You can order it online: see our section on shopping.

Savoury Dishes

Swedes also sometimes use cloudberries in savoury dishes, such as mushrooms on toast, or with cheese. However, as we can only buy cloudberry jam, it is probably best to only use cloudberries with sweet dishes in the UK.

Ice cream

Cloudberry ice cream

Swedes are ice cream addicts, being Europe's biggest consumers of ice cream. Cloudberry jam can be used to make an adsolutely delicious ice cream. It really is incredibly easy and the taste is superb. More…

Cloudberry parfait on hazelnut biscuit bases

Cloudberry parfait

Cloudberry parfaits make superb desserts to conclude a special Swedish meal. Although they take a little while to make, they can be prepared in advance and just assembled at the last minute. For a stunning presentation serve them on hazelnut biscuit bases. More…

Cloudberry meringues

Cloudberry meringues

These show stealers look stunning, but they are easy to prepare and they are a good of using up egg whites. More…

Soufflés

Cloudberry souffle

Soufflés are such a spectacular dessert and wonderful to serve for a special occasion. The addition of cloudberries gives them an exquisite flavour. More…

Panna Cotta with Cloudberry Jam

Panna cotta with cloudberry jam

Although panna cotta isn't Swedish, it is something that nearly everyone loves and it is very common in Sweden.  A topping of cloudberry jam makes it look absolutely gorgeous and the addition of some salted pistachio nuts and white chocolate makes it irresistable!

It is an extremely easy dessert to assemble at the last minute or, if you have room in your fridge, you can plate it up before a meal as it will keep in a fridge for a couple of hours without being covered with clingfilm. More…

Waffles and pancakes

Waffles with cloudberry jam and whipped cream

Cloudberry jam can be served with waffles and pancakes. However, personally I think the jam is too expensive to serve in this way and besides I think it is better used as an ingredient in other sweet dishes rather than taking centre stage. More…

Growing cloudberries

I would love to be able to grow cloudberries, but I know I've got no chance! Within the UK there are a few people in Scotland growing cloudberries and I am told that some are having enough success that they will be selling them commercially, but I don't believe it!

To grow cloudberries in the UK you really need to live in the north of Scotland, have acid soil, an exposed situation and plenty of ground. If you want to try you can buy cloudberry plants or seeds from Poyntzfield Herb Nursery on the Black Isle in Scotland. They provide a mail order service, including delivering overseas. Good luck!

John Duxbury

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