Some Awesome People

Monday, June 25, 2012

Finland’s elusive berry

Ephemeral delights
Virtually unknown outside northern Europe, the cloudberry is Finland’s favourite fruit and is treated with reverence. The tiny, orange-gold bubbles, growing one fruit to a plant, emerge in July and remain ripe for only three weeks of the year. Cloudberries grow well off the beaten path in marshes and wet meadows and are especially abundant in the wetlands of Lapland in the far north, although they can be found throughout the country. The start of cloudberry season is a cue for Finns to put everyday chores on hold and get picking.

Summer retreats
The annual search for cloudberries provides Finns with the perfect excuse for to get outside and explore their land. A summer retreat to a wilderness cabin, like the one pictured here on Lake Tuolpajärvi in Lapland– a prime spot for cloudberry picking – is a longstanding Finnish tradition, one still practised even by Helsinki urbanites. It is a time for Finns to berry pick, fish and relax.

Only in the wild
The collecting and eating of cloudberries – either made into jam or served fresh with slabs of halloumi-like leipäjuusto cheese – is a summer obsession. The cloudberry requires precise weather conditions to flourish, which makes them almost impossible to cultivate on an agricultural scale.

The capital of the cloudberry
Every year, the small town of Ranua on the southern border of Lapland becomes the capital of the cloudberry, hosting Lapland’s annual Cloudberry Market where more than 300 cloudberry vendors bring their freshly picked wares to sell. The price per kilo is chalked up on a board in the central tent and, like a stockmarket, fluctuates according to supply and demand. Fish and vegetables are cooked and served as part of the celebration.

The queen of the berries
The crowning of the Cloudberry Queen is the highlight of Ranua’s cloudberry festival. Dressed in berry-themed regalia, her responsibilities include dancing the first waltz at the evening party and representing the cloudberry at a national berry awards ceremony alongside such rivals as Raspberry Girl and Cranberry Woman. Beside her in the berry hierarchy is Dr Berry, a title bestowed on a veteran berry picker every year.

Just a funny side mouth literally dropped open when I saw that there was such a thing as cloudberries. And why? Because when I wrote a story several years ago, I "made up" a type of berry called a cloudberry! XD

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