Claire Fadul wrote today’s entry, as part of the “Plant Diversity and Food” series:
Taken in the Bragg Creek Natural Area in Alberta, Canada, Anne Elliot (annkelliot@Flickr) has submitted this lovely close-up of Vaccinium vitis-idaea or the mountain cranberry via the BPotD Flickr Pool (original image). Thank you Anne!
The hardy Vaccinum vitis-idaea is an evergreen shrub found through the northern hemisphere in boreal regions north to the tundra. You may have heard it called lingonberry, but mountain, lowbush, and alpine cranberry are also used as common names. Vaccinum vitis-idaea is from the Ericaceae–the heath or heather family. Other members of the family include bearberry, cranberry, blueberry, bilberry, Arbutus spp. and Rhododendron spp. Efloras.org cites 46 genera, 212 species of Ericaceae found in North America and roughly 120 genera and 4100 species worldwide
Vaccinum vitis-idaea is a low-growing groundcover. It produces acidic, bright red berries high in tannins and anthocyanins (water soluble pigments found in the vacuole of plant cells). The fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals and were used by people living in northern climates as a remedy against scurvy and deficiencies in the wintertime.
Vaccinum vitis-idaea is not commonly cultivated and is mostly picked wild. The berries can be preserved and are used in many edibles such as jams, wines, baked goods, sauces and more. Because of the tart flavour, they are not commonly eaten raw. The berries are also an important food source for bears, birds, and foxes in the autumn and winter months.