The cloudberry plant is a wild perennial that loves to grow in mossy, peaty areas or in tundra. It grows in northern areas such as Alaska, Scandinavia, New England, Russia, China and Canada. Most varieties don’t grow very tall — only about 3 inches (7 1/2 cm high) — so they are more like ground cover, though a few varieties will grow 4 to 12 inches (10 to 25 cm) tall. The plants can propagate by seed or by spreading their roots. They have bright green, rounded leaves.
Each plant only produces 1 flower and 1 berry at the end of a stalk. Some plants produce a male flower, some produce a female flower. Only the female ones produce a berry. If the frost is still heavy when the plants are flowering, there will be a low yield.
When unripe, the berries are bright red or pale red, depending on variety, but they turn to yellow as they ripen. The plant is related to raspberries, and the 1/2 (1 cm) long berries look like golden raspberries with the individual “drupelets” on the surface (though the plant leaves are missing the rasps that raspberry leaves have.) When eaten fresh, the taste is very different from raspberries, though. They have a subtle, sweet taste that some people say reminds them vaguely of gooseberries. When cooked the taste is more like apples.
The berries are very soft and juicy, making them hard to handle and ship. Consequently, they are mostly sold already made into pies or jams. They are good for jams and jellies because they naturally have a good deal of pectin in them. Jellies made from Cloudberries come out yellow.
Attempts have been made since the mid-1900s to cultivate Cloudberries commercially in Scandinavia and in Scotland. Cultivars developed include Apollo, Fjellgull and Fjordgull. Propagation by rhizome cutting works best if done in May or August, with cuttings that are to 15 to 20 cm long.
50 to 150 mg mg
1 cup fresh = 2.5 oz = 75g
1 cup frozen = 8 oz = 230g
Cloudberries will keep for several weeks, refrigerated. They also freeze well.
Literature & Lore
Cloudberries are shown on the Finnish 2-Euro coin.
“Nova Scotia sends the cloudberry to appease the appetite of Scandinavians who miss this golden fruit of the Arctic. The Nova Scotia packer labels the can ‘Bake-Apples,’ heaven knows why. But open a tin, it’s cloudberry all right, a round, yellow fruit built on the style of the red raspberry, and soft to the tongue. Nyborg and Nelson, the Swedish delicatessen at 841 Third Avenue, handle the delicacy, the 8-ounce tin 50 cents.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. March 1944.
Cloudberries in Eastern Canada are known, particularly in Newfoundland, as “Bakeapples” or “Bake Apple berries”. In Chinese, they are called “yun mei.”
Rapp, Kåre. Cloudberry Factsheet. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products. 1995.
Rapp, Kåre, S. Kristine Næss, and Harry Jan Swartz. Commercialization of the Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus L.) in Norway. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York. p. 524-526.