Lingonberry: An essential berry in Scandinavian cuisine


In Scandinavia, there is a berry called lingonberry, which has beautiful red berries.

Lingonberries, which grow hardy in cold climates, have long been eaten in northern Europe as a valuable source of winter nutrition.

Lingonberry is often processed into jams and sauces, and in Scandinavia, lingonberry jam is a topping for a variety of dishes.

In this article, I would like to introduce the characteristics of lingonberries, a small fruit popular in Scandinavia.

Lingonberry Characteristics

Lingonberry is a type of berry characterized by its bright, glossy red berries.

It is an evergreen shrub belonging to the same genus as blueberry, and grows mainly in the cold regions of northern Europe.

In Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, lingonberries are known as one of the most familiar berries.

Scandinavian families have long harvested lingonberries, which grow wild in the forests, and processed them into jams and sauces for spreading on bread or as an accompaniment to meat dishes.

Lingonberry jam has a fresh, sweet and sour flavor that pairs surprisingly well with hearty meat and fish dishes.

Lingonberries are also rich in polyphenols and vitamin E. In recent years, they have attracted attention as a superfood due to their high nutritional value.

In the nature-rich Nordic countries, wild berries such as lingonberries and blueberries are everywhere, just a short walk into the forest.

In addition, there is a Nordic law called the “Right of public access to the wilderness,” which permits free access to the forest and activities such as gathering berries and mushrooms, camping, swimming, and fishing.

This is why people living in Scandinavia are able to visit their neighbors in the woods and pick lingonberries.

The unique “The World Championships of Berry Picking” in Finland is another unique Nordic event, where wild berries are a familiar sight.

Lingonberry growing area

Lingonberry is cold hardy enough to withstand temperatures as low as -40°C (-40°F) and grows well even in poor soil. On the other hand, it is also susceptible to heat.

Therefore, the main habitats of lingonberries are concentrated in cold regions, with Scandinavian countries, northern Europe, Russia and other northern parts of Eurasia, Alaska and North America as their native countries.

Lingonberry also grows wild in Japan, with the highlands of Hokkaido and Kyushu regions known as its habitat.

In Japan, however, the area where it grows is limited, and its collection is so severely restricted that Tottori Prefecture has designated it a “National Endangered Species” by ordinance.

Commonly processed into jams and sauces for preservation

In Scandinavia, lingonberries are rarely eaten raw; they are usually prepared into jams, sauces, compotes, and other processed foods, or frozen.

This is because fresh lingonberries have a strong sour taste and are not suitable for raw consumption.

Therefore, they were boiled with sugar to neutralize the acidity and then eaten as jam.

To make lingonberry jam at home, the lingonberries are boiled down along with plenty of sugar.

Also, preservatives are usually added along with the jam.

However, lingonberries contain benzoic acid, an ingredient that prevents the growth of microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria and molds that promote fermentation.

This is why homemade lingonberry jam can be stored for relatively long periods of time without artificial additives.

And when it comes to the highest quality lingonberries, they are sometimes mixed raw with sugar without cooking and made into jars of jam.

Used in Scandinavia as a garnish for dishes

Lingonberry jam may still be unfamiliar in Japan.

However, in Scandinavia, it is a staple jam that every household has on hand.

Lingonberry is an ingredient that was originally popular in Scandinavia for centuries.

In the cold climate of the Nordic countries, crops hardly grow in winter, and vitamin deficiency in winter was a major issue, especially in the past when preservation technology was not yet developed.

Lingonberry, with its strong cold tolerance, has a long history of being highly valued as a valuable source of vitamins in winter, and lingonberry jam is still an essential ingredient in traditional Nordic cooking.

Lingonberry jam can be served with cakes and breakfast bread, as well as meat and fish dishes.

In fact, in Scandinavian and European countries where meat dishes are widely eaten, meat and sweet jam are a very common combination.

This is a unique way of eating meat from the Japanese point of view, but the sweetness and acidity of the jam alleviate the fatty taste of the meat, so the two go surprisingly well together.

A typical example is meatballs, a traditional Swedish dish.

Lingonberries are always topped together with mashed potatoes and white sauce to accompany meatballs, a Swedish national home-style dish.

Lingonberry jam is also used as a sauce in other traditional Scandinavian dishes such as blood sausage and potato cake.

How to enjoy lingonberries in Japan?

If you want to enjoy lingonberries in Japan, use Internet shopping or buy commercial lingonberry jam at imported grocery stores such as IKEA or Kaldi Coffee Farm.

Jars of lingonberry jam are sold at IKEA stores nationwide for a reasonable price, making it easy to experience the authentic Scandinavian taste.

Alternatively, if you want to recreate the taste of lingonberry jam in your home kitchen, you can substitute raspberries, which have a similar sweet and sour taste.



Lingonberry jam is an essential ingredient in traditional Scandinavian cuisine, including Swedish specialty meatballs.

Lingonberries, the raw material, also grow wild in the forests of Scandinavia and are so common that every household keeps a supply of jam on hand.

伊東 琢哉