Tart, sweet, slightly earthy, with a little bit of astringent zip; lingonberries are a hearty and delicious relative of the cranberry and the blueberry.
They are native to colder climates, like Scandinavia, Alaska, and Northern Canada, although they can also be found in limited quantity in some of the more northern states in the U.S. My first introduction to the lovely lingonberry was on a Swedish pancake smothered in lingonberry jam. Oh so very delicious!
Lingonberries are a mainstay in Scandinavian cooking; in fact, lingonberry jam is a common accompaniment for dishes both sweet and savory. Lingonberries tend to have a two-crop season, with the first fruit arriving some time in July and the second arriving later in the fall.
From a culinary perspective, if you can get your hands on some lingonberries, they are similar enough to cranberries that you can use them anywhere you might use a cranberry and vice versa. They are tart, with a hint of sweetness, and a very astringent quality like the cranberry so be prepared to have a wide variety of experiences on your palate if you eat them au naturel.
From a health perspective, lingonberries are closely related to cranberries, so they do have similar nutritional properties. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals. They have a similar quality to the cranberry in that the chemical compound, D-Mannose, acts as a bacterial deterrent for the urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder. D-Mannnose basically makes it very difficult for bacteria to hang around and propagate so in a sense it has antibiotic qualities without the negative side effects of taking an antibiotic.
Lingonberries also contribute to beneficial gut flora, increasing pre and probiotic colonies, which in turn helps you with digestive function, immune response, and mood regulation. As if that’s not enough to love them, lingonberries also possess a good supply of anthocyanin, about 100 milligrams per 3-1/2 ounces of berries. Anthocyanins, a member of the flavonoid family, are a really potent antioxidant. They help decrease systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Research suggests that anthocyanins can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and cancer.