The uniqueness of the Arctic lingonberry
Seasonal change and long, light summer nights provide favourable growing conditions for the lingonberry. In winter, the snow cover protects the shrubs and provides the plant with the moisture it needs long into the spring. In summer, an abundance of light, warmth and a suitable amount of moisture ripen the lingonberries. In mid-summer, there are 19 hours of daylight in southern Finland, and in the northern Arctic Circle region the sun does not set at all. According to research, having plenty of light will optimise the formation of phenol compounds which promotes the berries’ healthfulness. There has been a great deal of research carried out on the health effects of polyphenols, which are found in lingonberries. The berries have, for example, lignans, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol and quercetin.
In addition to its healthful properties, the lingonberry holds a special place in Finnish culture. Lingonberries growing in the wild have always been a part of Finnish cuisine. It is a very diverse berry. It can be used, for example, for juice, jams, purées, jellies and porridges. It’s not only for humans either, as gamefowl, thrush birds, bears, badgers, field mice and voles also consume the lingonberry.
The maiden in a tale found in the Finnish national epic Kalevala found a lingonberry on a hillock while shepherding her flock. She ate it and became pregnant. Her son was christened as the King of Karelia. It must have been quite a powerful berry!