Not far from where I live, there are some quiet pine woods where the ground is covered with sphagnum moss, bilberry bushes and lichen. The moss is so deep and thick that if you put a blanket over the top of it, it would make for an extremely comfortable night's sleep. Out of this moss in many widespread areas, grows a thick ground cover of cowberry bushes. These are called Lingonberries in Scandinavia and mountain cranberries in North America. They are well-known in Austria, but perhaps not so well known in England or even where I live, in Germany. The cowberry is a low-growing shrub which loves the shade of the pine canopy. It is an evergreen shrub with small waxy bright green leaves and bell-shaped pinkish white flowers which develop into shiny bright red berries. It has two flowering periods at the beginning and end of summer, and can often be seen with both flowers and berries growing simultaneously.
Ray Mears ('Wild Food') p.269, says that cowberries (vaccinium vitis-idaea) contain benzoic and oxalic acid, which make them mildly toxic when eaten to excess, (but so would anything when eaten to excess). They're rich in Vitamin C and the benzoic acid is anti-microbial. They have many health benefits. They've been an important food for the peoples of Northern Europe Asia and America for thousands of years. They can be added to cakes, used to make spirits, fruit leathers, as well as jams.
Well, we went out a in the middle of October and again today, and picked enough to make two or three 250g jars of jam. The great things about them is that you don't need to add any pectin.
- Half a kilo of cowberries/lingonberries
- 100 millilitre of water
- 400 grams sugar