4 November 2015

Crowberry (Empetrum Nigrum)

Crowberry (Empetrum Nigrum)

Crowberry looks a little like Fraughan or Bilberry but its low growth and narrow leaves are helpful in distinguishing it.

It is found hidden among the heather on the Irish mountains.

Crowberry is edible, but has a bitter taste. The berries are harvested in arctic regions for use in cooking.

Crowberry grows in acidic soils in shady, moist areas. It can be grown for the edible fruit, as a ground cover, or as an ornamental plant in rock gardens.

The fruit is high in anthocyanin pigment, and can be used to make a natural food dye.

After waning popularity, Crowberry is regaining its reputation as an edible fruit. It provides a steady crop and the gathering is relatively easy. Cooking enhances the flavor. The fruits make good pie and jam.

In subarctic areas Crowberry has been a vital addition to the diet of the Inuit and the Sami. The Dena'ina (Tanaina) harvest it for food, sometimes storing in quantity for winter, and like it mixed with lard or oil.

The fruits are usually collected in autumn, but if not picked they may persist on the plant and can be picked in the spring. They keep well in a cool place without any special preparation.

The Inuit and Native Americans mix them with other berries, especially blueberries.

The leaves and stems are used in Dena'ina medicine for diarrhea and stomach problems; they are boiled or soaked in hot water, and the strained liquid drunk. Some claim the fruit juice is good for kidney trouble.

In Dena'ina plantlore in the Outer and Upper Inlet area of Lake Clark, the root is also used as a medicine, being used to remove a growth on an eye and to heal sore eyes. The roots are boiled and the eyes are washed with the strained, cooled tea, to which a little sugar may be added.

In Labrador, where the name 'blackberry' is used, the smoke of the burning stems and leaves is used to smoke fish, notably Salmon, Sea Trout and Arctic Char.

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