The Tart and Tasty Lingonberry

A close relative of the cranberry, the lingonberry is a tart berry that doesn't require a backyard bog!

While most berry aficionados have heard of the lingonberry, a relative few have actually tasted and enjoyed the fruit in any form. Unless, of course, you go to IKEA a lot. In Sweden, IKEA's home country, lingonberries are extremely popular, so the company sells trendy lingonberry jam along with trendy furniture.

Be that as it may, you don't have to depend on IKEA for your lingonberry fix, if indeed you've had the joy of developing such an addiction. You can grow these deliciously tart berries in your own garden -- if you live in the right place, of course.

Lingonberry Basics

Sadly, there's a reason why lingonberries aren't widely cultivated: they require a relatively cool environment. Like their much better-known cousins, the cranberries, lingonberries are native to cold northern climes, ranging as far north as the Arctic tundra in both North America and Eurasia.

Lingonberries (also known as cowberries, partridgeberries, foxberries, quailberries, etc.) are the fruit of a low-growing evergreen shrub called Vaccinium vitis-idaea. The bush may stand less than 16 inches high at maturity. Most people pick them in the wild, rarely going in for formal cultivation. However...

Lingonberry Cultivation

There's no reason you can't grow your own lingonberries, as long as you live in an area where the summers don't get too hot. Not too surprisingly, they can handle very cold winters, down to -40 degrees (which is the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales).

In addition, lingonberry plants require much less preparation than, say, cranberries, and far less maintenance. In fact, they prefer to be planted and left alone, to put out runners and spread along the ground as they will. They actually make good alternate ground covers.

Requirements

All lingonberry plants really need is a well-drained acidic soil, preferably a sandy loam. Unlike cranberries, they don't like wet soil at all. They don't care much for amendments, either, but you can add a bit of acid fertilized early in the spring. As for light, anything from partial shade to full sun is fine.

Weeds aren't much of a problem, because the lingonberries out-compete them. Pests are quite rare (unless you have reindeer in your neighborhood), though sometimes cows like to eat the berries.

Bumper Crops

One of the coolest things about lingonberries is that they produce two crops a year. The pretty little spikes of pink-tinted white flowers appear in the spring and summer, with the oval-shaped red berries following in late summer and fall.

Frankly, it's hard to understand why more people don't grow them, when you have the opportunity to make lingonberry preserves twice a year!

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