Lingonberry, a member of the blueberry and cranberry plant family (Ericaceae), is a low-growing, perennial semi-evergreen woody shrub with relatively small berries. This native to arctic and subarctic regions of the world is widely distributed across cold climates of Northern hemisphere. It is also found in mountainous regions of central and southern Europe and Asia. Lingonberry’s natural habitat includes densely wooded areas, heath, grass moorland, raised bogs, rocky exposed cliffs, and mountain peaks.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea or lingonberry is known by several other common names including partridgeberry, foxberry, northern mountain cranberry, cowberry, wolf-berry, dry ground cranberry, rock cranberry, and ling berry among others. In parts of Scandinavia it’s also known as “tyttebaer”.
There are two types of lingonberry: the wild lingonberry, and its cultivated cousin. The wild lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minus) generally produces one 1 crop per year in summer. These plants tend to be short (7 inches or less) and have single blooms. The cultivated lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea) produces 2 crops per year, summer (August) and fall (late October – mid-November). These plants range from 2 to 16 inches in height with branches 3-4 inches long. Leaves are bright green, oval and alternate. Lower leaf surfaces are matt below and covered with small black dots. New growth is covered with fine hairs. Plants may spread 3 feet in width, forming dense mats.
Lingonberry flowers on the previous year’s growth. Flowers are similar in shape to those of blueberry and may be white or pink in color. Lingonberries are bright to dark red in color. They are considered highly flavored but not as tart as cranberries.
Their high benzoic acid content gives them a long shelf life; 8 – 12 weeks in the refrigerator, and several years in the freezer. Unpicked ripe fruit may persist on plants into spring, birds permitting.
Wild plant raw material from Russia
Lingonberries are noted for surviving winter cold, summer heat, and windy exposures. Winter snow cover, however, is preferable. In areas where winter temperatures drop below 10 °F and snow cover is marginal, protect plants with straw much, floating row cover or overhead irrigation. Spring frost protection using floating row cover or over head irrigation may also be needed.
Lingonberries are rich in antioxidants, containing high levels of benzoic acid, vitamins A and C, and magnesium. Lingonberry extracts have several medicinal uses such as a component for cough syrups. They are also used for treatment of blood disorders and urinary tract infections.