City girl that I am, I’ve known about lingonberries for quite some time thanks to the Swedish company IKEA. There, you can buy the berry in every form imaginable as lingonberry concentrate, soda, jelly, jam and more… so I don’t have to tell you they are delicious!
What are Lingonberries?
The lingonberry plant is a hardy perennial evergreen shrub or ground-cover that grows about 1-1.5 feet tall (~12-18 inches). It is widely found in the forests of northern Europe, northern America, and Canada.
The low-growing plant blooms twice in the growing season: once in the spring and again later in the summer. The lingonberry fruit is similar to a cranberry and about the size of a wild blueberry. It starts out green before gradually turning red when ripe. Since the plant blooms twice during the growing season, the lingonberry has an extended crop that ripens in mid-August and again in mid-October in zone 5.
How to grow Lingonberries
Lingonberry plants like to be grown in acidic soil. The plants can tolerate some shade and are also cold-hardy – to zone 2! It will take about 1-2 years before your lingonberry plants begin producing fruit, but it’s worth the wait: you will get 2 crops, one in mid-summer (around July or August) and the second in late fall (starting in October through November)! Their compact size makes lingonberry plants, like the Koralle Lingonberry variety, perfect for containers and window boxes. Plant them as a border plant 18 inches apart in lieu of boxwoods, hollies, or dwarf conifers. Lingonberry plants can also be used in place of of ground covers like vincas or varieties of sedum.
Uses for Lingonberries
Substitute lingonberries in any recipe that calls for blueberries or cranberries. They work well with all meats, too. Strain through a puréer and make juice, or turn them into jelly or jam to enjoy on toast! It is also possible to make wine and liqueurs with lingons. The high levels of benzoic acid give lingonberries a long shelf life when refrigerated. Lingonberries also have a variety of nutritional properties. They are high in Vitamins A, B & C and produce natural phyto-chemicals like antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and cancer.
For me and my family, the joy of gardening is found in the healthy varieties of fruits and vegetables we are able to grow in our edible landscape.