The cloudberry (Latin Rubus chamaemorus, literally "red mulberry") is quite possibly the most expensive berry in the world, clocking in at around €15/l even in Finland during the harvesting season. It has an unmistakable but delicious taste, tart but sweet, and a very pretty appearance, pin-sized orange globules packed into a raspberryish shape. And then there's that name: whoever came up with it must have been a PR genius! The traditional names -- Finnish lakka, Swedish hjortron, Norwegian multe -- sound so much less sexy, and the other English name, bakeapple, is just plain bizarre.


The reason the cloudberry has yet to take the world by storm is that the habitat it likes is quite different for those preferred by humans. Cloudberries are found (in quantity) only in northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Russia, although odd specimens have been located as far south as New Hampshire, USA. Efforts to cultivate the berry have been mostly unsuccessful, as it seems to like only authentic arctic bogs and demands a precise range of temperatures to flower. So precise, in fact, that the yearly harvest depends greatly on weather conditions: a single storm or late frost can knock out half the crop, and on average there is a bumper crop only once every ten years.

Unlike its cousins the raspberry and the blackberry, cloudberries are not big bushes, but tiny plants seldom exceeding 3 inches in height. Each plant has at most one flower, and of these flowers only female ones turn into berries; the sex ratio is usually around 3:1 in favor of males. This means that the average yield is only around 20 kilograms per hectare.


Given all that, the only way to harvest cloudberries is pull on your Nokia-brand rubber boots and traipse into the marshes for a day of back-breaking manual labor, battling hordes of Lapland's legendary mosquitos and your competitors. Due to the high prices fetched by the berry, these days much harvesting is done by Russian migrants who come to Lapland for the summer and earn a year or two's wages by picking cloudberries.


I, and I suspect most Finns would agree with me, like my cloudberries best freshly picked. Cloudberries and vanilla ice cream are a classic combination, and you can buy cloudberry-flavored yogurt all year around. A traditional Sami dessert is to mash cloudberries into reindeer milk, but unfortunately(?) reindeer milk is not something you'll find on a supermarket shelf even in Finland.

Still, for most foreign palates raw cloudberries are a bit too sour, and many also find the large seeds inside a bit offputting. (Hint: the easiest way to deal with them is to ignore them, they won't break your teeth and they don't taste like much.) So the usual solution is to boil them and add sugar to make a jam; you can find a simple recipe under bakeapple (another name for this fine fruit). This jam can then be further reprosessed into nearly anything, including but not limited to:

  • cloudberry liquor
    • quite possibly the most popular Finnish souvenir; the stuff is insanely sweet though, so the Finns themselves never drink it
  • cloudberry ice cream
    • very popular in Finland
  • cloudberry juice
  • cloudberry jelly
  • cloudberry chocolate
  • cloudberry marmalade
  • cloudberry pastries
You get the idea. Cloudberry jam goes particularly well with soft cheeses, Finns like to couple it with an oven-cooked type called breadcheese (leipäjuusto).


And there's more: cloudberries are a great source of Vitamin A (30 μg/100g) and C (50-150mg/100g), or 10x and 4x more than orange respectively. As far back as the 1600s, Nordic sailors used to take barrels of cloudberry jam along to prevent scurvy. (Sure beats using sauerkraut if you ask me!)

Cloudberry leaves have also been used as cough medicine in Russia, where they were used to brew tea.

Random Cloudberry Trivia

  • Cloudberries are the largest plant on the territory of Svalbard, located at 80°N.
  • Finland's 2-euro coin features cloudberries.
Non-Berry Cloudberries

There is also a GPS-based vehicle tracking system called Cloudberry, and a Swedish pop band called Cloudberry Jam.

References (in Finnish)
Personal experience

Cloud"ber`ry (?), n. Bot.

A species of raspberry (Rubus Chamaemerous) growing in the northern regions, and bearing edible, amber-colored fruit.


© Webster 1913.

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