[NAFEX] Info about lingonberries,
Sam.Brungardt at state.mn.us
Wed Oct 4 16:20:16 EDT 2006
I spent a little time looking for information about this crop and for commercial growers.
There is a Lingonberry Production Guide for the Pacific Northwest:
The folks at the Lingonberry Corp. of North America might know who the few commercial growers are in the USA. They have very informative Web site (http://www.wislingonberry.com/).
Another group that might know of a Minnesota grower is:
Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
c/o Marilyn Nysetvold Johnson, executive coordinator
15125 W. Vermillion Circle NE
Ham Lake, MN 55304
You might also query the folks at the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Assn. (http://www.wiscran.org/education.htm) to see if any of their members also grow lingonberries.
Small fruit with big potential: Pacific Northwest leads the world in commercial lingonberry production
Agrichemical and Environmental News, Issue No. 209
Washington State University
Ross Penhallegon, Horticulture Extension Agent, Oregon State University
Over the past three and a half years, I have told the story of the Pacific Northwest's fledgling lingonberry industry here in the pages of Agrichemical and Environmental News (AENews). In "Stalking the Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Lingonberry" AENews Issue No. 165, Jan. 2000), I profiled this humble berry, tracing its European roots and describing efforts to grow it commercially in the United States and Canada. In "The Wide World of Lingonberries" (AENews Issue No. 190, Feb. 2002), I traveled to the lingonberry's ancestral homeland, visiting Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia, where I sought information on commercial lingonberry production and on markets for the fruit.
Through my field work at home and away (including a 2002 trip to Alaska, described later in this article), I have learned that the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia) leads the world in commercial production of lingonberries and is a major player in research on this fruit. The berries grow wild in northern Europe, Asia, and North America, but cultivation is spotty at best. This article describes the state of the industry and the progress we have made since the 2002 article.
Getting Your Berry Bearings
For those unfamiliar with the lingonberry, it is a small, red fruit borne on low-growing, woody evergreen shrubs. It is also known as cowberry, partridge berry, mountain cranberry, rock cranberry, dry-ground cranberry, lingen, lingberry, fox berry, and red berry, among other monikers. The name "lingonberry" originated in Sweden and is used in Canada and the United States. In Newfoundland it is called partridge berry, while the Scandinavian market prefers the name cowberry.
For the sake of discussion, we can separate the lingonberry into two classifications, the wild (Vaccinium vitis-idaea Minus) and the European domestic (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). The wild, "Minus" lingonberry is found across the northern hemisphere in forested areas that experience cold winters and warm summers. The plant is quite short, just 3 to 6 inches tall, and produces fruit on a single bloom.
Domestic lingonberries are plants that have been crossbred for production characteristics. Breeding has taken place primarily in Europe. They can grow 8 to 16 inches in height, have two blooming periods, and produce more fruit than the wild variety.
Where the Wild Ones Are
Most of the lingonberries consumed worldwide are the wild-picked, Minus varieties. Wild lingonberries can be found in Canada, Scandinavia, Poland, China, and Russia, and approximately twenty other northern countries.
In August 2002, after presenting a paper on lingonberries at the International Society of Horticulture Science conference in Toronto, Canada, I headed north to Alaska. The 49th state is a rich berry-growing region; over 115 wild berry varieties grow there, from wild strawberry to salmonberry, from bunchberry to bearberry. And, of course, lingonberry.
In Anchorage, I saw wild lingonberries in the botanical garden and represented in the dioramas at the Alaskan Culture and Heritage Center. Outside of town, I spotted them near the tiny village of Hope (where local residents compete with grizzly bears for a portion of the harvest), along backroads off Highways 1, 2, 3, and 4 between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and in Denali National Park, growing both in forested settings and out on the tundra. Reminiscent of my lingonberry-hunting visit to Europe, I found only two small commercial growers in Alaska.
To Market, To Market
So, who buys lingonberries, and what do they do with them? In Alaska, as in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe where consumption is high, lingonberries are used for jam, jelly, juice, wine, liqueur, candy, and as a baking ingredient in cakes, scones, and the like. They are flavorful, lending themselves to concentrate, and colorful, making them potentially useful as pigment for food coloring. Because they are high in vitamins A and C as well as magnesium and flavonoids, they are considered healthful, even medicinal.
Europeans consume over 180 million pounds of lingonberries annually, and consumption is also strong in Asia. Since most of this demand is met by wild lingonberries, which, with their low growth habit, are difficult to harvest, it would seem that the lingonberry consumers of the world would be "ripe" for a commercial source. The other potential market for the berry is consumers who are as yet unfamiliar with the fruit, but would likely appreciate its taste and health benefits.
Commercial Production Update
While I cannot yet vouch for the state of commercial lingonberry production in Poland, Russia, or the Far East, my research to date indicates that only Germany, Canada, and the United States cultivate lingonberries today. Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia appear to lead the world in this endeavor.
Commercial lingonberry production in the Pacific Northwest began in the mid-1990s. By the time I wrote my AENews article in January 2000, the main concerns in "growing" the industry were how to produce the berries without pesticides (as such a minor-minor crop would be unlikely to receive much registration attention from chemical manufacturers), how to work with the double bloom of the domestic lingonberry, how to harvest the berries, and how to market the berries.
Issue 1: Pest Management
As it turns out, the Pacific Northwest lingonberry industry uses almost no pesticides. The fruit has virtually no insect problems and very few disease pressures. Weed control is the most important pest issue, and is accomplished largely through cultural measures beginning with site preparation and maintenance and including good mulching. We have experimented with herbicides in research plots, but production fields have achieved good results by relying on hand weeding, some mechanical cultivation (performed with care, as lingonberry roots form near the soil surface), and, in some cases, establishment of a grass sod between the rows.
In terms of insects, the Western spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), Western striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma trivittatum), and the obliquebanded leafroller (Choristoneura rosaceana) have been found in Washington and Oregon lingonberry fields, but their feeding has been minor, resulting in no economic damage.
Disease pests are similar to insects in that they exist in Pacific Northwest lingonberries but are managed, for the most part, without use of pesticides. Growers practice good sanitation, choose healthy plants from proven cultivars, and maintain soil health and texture to minimize disease. We have found that adding high amounts of organic matter to the soil increases its permeability and may reduce the number of pathogenic species in the soil due to competition from other soil organisms. Diseases that have been found in the Northwest include leaf spots and twig blights associated with a variety of fungal pathogens, black rot from Allantophomopsis lycopodina, ripe rot from Coleophoma empetri, damping-off from various Rhizoctonia spp., and root rot from Phytophthora citricola. Most of these seem to affect a limited number of cultivars and have not resulted in economic damage. There has been one notable exception. In 2000, we began seeing a problem in some Oregon plantings: the plants had a sunburned appearance and some of the berries were falling off prematurely. When the Oregon State University (OSU) Plant Clinic failed to make positive identification, the USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, became involved. It appears we have discovered a brand-new fungal pathogenic species, Phomopsis columnaris. The disease causes progressive twig dieback and eventually results in the whole plant dying. It appears to affect only one cultivar; more research is underway.
Issue 2: Leveraging the Double Bloom
The domestic lingonberry cultivated for production has two blooming periods, March to April and July to August, with fruit ripening in mid-August and early November, respectively. Twenty-one double-bloom cultivars have been planted in the Pacific Northwest and several are showing great promise. While the few commercial fields in Europe (Germany, Sweden) yield 1 to 6 tons of fruit per acre, we have experienced yields of 4 to 21 tons per acre on research plots in the Pacific Northwest.
Issue 3: Mechanizing the Harvest
At present, all commercial lingonberries are hand harvested with berry rakes similar to those used for lowbush blueberries or dryland cranberries. We have located four harvesting machines for consideration, but have not yet investigated modification of the machines nor set trial dates. Three were designed for other fruits (a dryland cranberry picker from Minnesota, a wild blueberry picker from Nova Scotia, and a lowbush blueberry picker from Maine), but might be adapted for lingonberries. A fourth machine was developed in Germany specifically for lingonberries, but it is very large and bulky. Further investigation into these and other options is necessary to determine the feasibility of mechanical harvesting.
Issue 4: Marketing
We touched on this issue earlier. A market exists for lingonberries. In fact, demand exceeds supply. Beyond the many food uses, the berry shows promise for medicinal and pigmentation (food coloring) applications. There are now 23.5 productive acres of lingonberries in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia; the largest single grower has fewer than three acres. In the near-term future, I see lingonberries remaining a small farm/niche market crop, but as the berry gains recognition, larger acreage will follow. To date, efforts have been focused on choosing the most promising cultivars, improving fruit quality, and increasing per-acre yield. Having succeeded in those areas, acreage will be expanded in the future to accommodate demand for fresh and processing markets.
Pacific Northwest Industry Moves Forward
The Pacific Northwest lingonberry industry is still in its infancy, but important strides are being made. A Grower's Guide is undergoing internal review at OSU as of this writing and will soon be available. A Website with resources for the lingonberry grower and general public is under development. A conference scheduled for 2002 was canceled, but the one we held in 2003 drew attendees from as far away as Newfoundland. Forty individuals attended and shared lingonberry insight, information, and (best of all) edibles. By pooling our information resources and expanding on our successes to date, the Pacific Northwest can become an important supplier for world lingonberry demand.
Ross Penhallegon is with Oregon State University's Lane County Extension Service in Eugene. He can be reached at (541) 682-4243 or ross.penhallegon at oregonstate.edu.
Other info about lingonberry production:
Finally, from National Gardening magazine:
The Mighty Lingonberry
by Robert E. Gough
If you live in the North and are searching for a new and unusual crop or landscape plant, consider lingonberries. These plants thrive in moist, acidic soils from Massachusetts to Alaska, producing an abundance of healthful, cranberry-like fruits.
The lingonberry is a 12- to 18-inch-high evergreen shrub native to northern temperate, boreal and arctic regions of Europe and North America. In addition to inherent cold-hardiness (to -10°), once covered with insulating snow, it survives northern winters from New England to Minnesota. In fact, it's one of the few fruits that gardeners can grow successfully in those cold climates. In warmer climates, such as USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and 10, lingonberry neither grows well nor reliably survives summer.
Lingonberry plants spread by underground runners to three feet. The glossy, dark green leaves are 1/8- to 1/2-inch long and usually tinged red when new. This shrub is handsome enough for ornamental use -- as a small-scale ground cover or informal edging around larger acid-soil plantings, for example. It is also attractive in containers.
The wild North American species of lingonberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea var. minus (also called the mountain cranberry) is a low-growing plant that blooms only in the spring; the European and Asian native, V. v. var. majus, is a slightly taller shrub with larger leaves and flowers. It blooms twice each season. Also called cowberry or foxberry, it's the type more commonly found at nurseries. Dan Hartmann, of Hartmann's Plantation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, notes that this potential for a double crop is part of what makes these plants attractive.
Small, pinkish white, lily-of-the-valley-like blossoms open in tight clusters near the tips of one-year-old shoots and make an attractive display in border plantings. The May bloom produces fruits that ripen in midsummer (July and August here in northern Maine). The summer bloom, which occurs when fruits from the first bloom are ripening, produces fruits that ripen in late September and October.
Open flowers are only hardy to about 30°, meaning the first bloom is usually nipped by a late frost. The second crop is usually the largest and often the only one of the season. This is not as bad as it sounds, however. In my experience, fruits that ripen in the cooler temperatures of fall generally have the best color and flavor.
Lingonberries are self-pollinating, but cross-pollination will produce larger fruits that ripen earlier. Besides, mixing fruit of several varieties will tickle your palate with all the fine, tart nuances of lingonberry flavor.
Bumblebees are the best natural lingonberry pollinators. Plants need two to three years to begin bearing good crops, according to Diana MacKentley of St. Lawrence Nurseries in Potsdam, New York. But when the time comes -- usually just in time for Thanksgiving -- better have your recipes ready.
Lingonberries are slightly smaller than cranberries but otherwise look and are cooked the same. Flavor, however, is distinct. Pick the firm, deep red fruits and refrigerate immediately; sound fruit will keep for up to three weeks. Or wash, drain and freeze them for use later in the season.
These fruits are tart. Make them into jam for a superb roast goose and venison topping. Pancakes covered with lingonberry syrup are a Swedish tradition. Use them in any recipe that calls for cranberries. Lingonberries are very rich in vitamin C -- Scandinavians and native tribes of northern Canada use the fruit as a cold remedy. The simplest preparation is lingonberry sauce: 3 cups washed fruits, 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 cup water. Boil 10 minutes; skim and cool.
Planting and Care
Locate your planting in a sunny spot on land with good air circulation and soil drainage. My lingonberry garden has a southeastern exposure. It receives sun most of the day and yet is protected from the brutal northwest winds of winter by a thick blanket of drifted snow. The plants grow well in the acid soils of our region. The ideal is soil of pH 5 that is also high in organic matter.
According to research by Dr. Elden Stang, professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, plants grow best when up to about seven pounds of peat moss is incorporated into each 100 square feet of row. Adding more does not increase plant growth substantially. Dr. Stang's research plots were located on a loamy sand soil. In your garden, work in the peat moss or compost and adjust the pH during the fall prior to spring planting.
Order your plants early from a reputable nursery. Start with plants in either two-inch or one-gallon pots. Set them out after danger of severe spring cold has passed and the soil has dried sufficiently to be worked. In my garden, on the border of zones 4a and 3b, that's late May.
Make the planting hole wide enough to accommodate all the roots without bending and set the plants as deeply as they grew in the pots, about 12 inches apart in rows spaced about 36 inches apart. Water them thoroughly to settle the soil about the roots.
By the second season, the plants will begin to spread, sending up shoots increasingly distant from the crown. In this respect, their growth habit resembles that of another cousin, the lowbush blueberry. The aim is to establish a hedgerow of plants about 18 inches in width.
According to MacKentley, weeds are the single biggest pest of small lingonberry plants. The best prevention is a two- to three-inch-deep mulch of sawdust, pine needles, chopped straw or peat moss that smothers young weeds. Otherwise, there is little the home gardener can do but pull them by hand and risk injuring the shallow roots of the new plants.
Mulched plants produce stronger growth and up to quadruple the yields of unmulched plants. Peat moss is far superior to sawdust or chopped straw, probably because it simulates the lingonberry's natural soil environment. Place it a couple of inches deep around the young plants right after planting, and increase the thickness of this layer each year as the plants grow in height. Several inches of damp peat moss make a wonderful mulch for mature plants, and the plants' rhizomes will actually spread through its lower layers.
Lingonberries require little fertilizer. In fact, excessive nitrogen will overstimulate vegetative growth and decrease fruitfulness. It may also interfere with hardening and increase winterkill.
How much is enough? If shoot growth seems vigorous and new shoots grow several inches and remain erect and rigid, fertility is about right. If growth is soft and rampant, with large dark green leaves, you have overfertilized. If shoots are short and the foliage is pale yellow or red during the growing season, plants need some fertilizer. In the North, I make it a rule to apply no fertilizer to fruit plants after the Fourth of July. Most woody plants have completed shoot growth by then, so the fertilizer will do little good. It could, however, stimulate excessive late growth that may not harden in time for winter.
Generally, a small handful of a complete fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, applied in a circle around a mature plant in the early spring, will be sufficient. Use smaller amounts for plants up to about three years old. Fish meal or dried blood are good organic nitrogen sources, but be sure to apply them very early in the spring. Precise amounts depend upon the site and vigor of the plants. If you pay enough attention to them, the plants will always tell you what to do.
Lingonberry, like its cousins, is sensitive to chlorides. Keep de-icing salt, water from chlorinated pools and fertilizers containing potassium chloride away from them.
Propagate plants in spring by splitting and separating a crown and transplanting clumps. It helps older plantings that have become crowded and unproductive. Plunge your spade deep, severing the plant's root system and rhizomes. Lift the plant portion gently and transplant it to another area. That's all there is to it. The only trick is to be sure that you leave part of the rhizome attached to the clump. Without it, the plant will not spread rapidly.
Except for the occasional removal of dead and damaged shoots every spring, lingonberries require no pruning.
Varieties of Lingonberry
'Erntesegen' - Introduced in 1981, this is a very vigorous grower producing exceptional crops of large, light red fruits. It's mild-flavored, in contrast to tart and tangy Koralle.
'Koralle' - This Dutch variety is the most popular and provides most European commercial production. Attractive plants are upright and vigorous. The small to medium-sized fruits are highly flavored but somewhat tart. Often fruits of Koralle are blended with those of a more productive but mild-flavored variety such as Sussi.
'Red Pearl' - This recently introduced (1983) Dutch variety produces large, mild-flavored fruits and appears to have resistance to Phytophthora root rot. Fruits ripen one to two weeks earlier than Koralle.
'Regal' - Selected by Dr. Elden Stang from seed collected in Finland, Regal is noted for its superior fruit size and early bearing.
'Scarlet' - This new Norwegian introduction produces some fruit but is mostly noted for producing abundant pollen, which makes it a valuable pollinator.
'Sussi' - This Swedish variety is slow to establish but ultimately produces large red fruits abundantly.
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