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Crowberry,Kraaiheide (Empetrum nigrum) with Ice

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Comments (7)

Erik van den Ham on March 29, 2008

Crowberry From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Crowberry (Empetrum) is a small genus of dwarf evergreen shrubs that bear edible fruit. They are commonly found in the northern hemisphere, from temperate to subarctic climates, and also in the Andes of South America and on Tristan da Cunha (South Atlantic Ocean). The typical habitat is on moorlands, tundra and muskeg, but also in spruce forests.

Species of crowberry include: E. nigrum (Crowberry), E. eamesii (Rockberry) and E. hermaphroditum. All are evergreen mat forming shrubs, with small, light green needle-like leaves 3-10 mm long. The flowers are small and plain looking. The fruit is a fairly dry black berry, smaller than the alpine bearberry, but with somewhat better flavour, and looks similar to a blueberry.

The genus was previously classified in its own family Empetraceae, but recent genetic studies by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group have resulted in the submergence of this family into the Ericaceae.


In subarctic areas, crowberry has been a vital addition to the diet of the Inuit and the Sami. After waning popularity, the crowberry is again regaining its reputation as an edible berry. It gives a steady crop and the gathering is relatively easy. The high concentration of anthocyanin pigment can be used as a natural food dye. The Dena'ina (Tanaina) harvest it for food, sometimes storing in quantity for winter, and like it mixed with lard or oil. They keep well in a cool place without any special preparation.

The berries are usually collected in the fall of the year but if not picked they may persist on the plant and can be picked in the spring. The raw berries are mealy and tasteless. The Inuit and Native Americans mix them with other berries, especially the blueberry. Cooking enhances the flavor. They make good pie and jelly.

The leaves and stems are used in Dena'ina medicine for diarrhoea and stomach problems; they are boiled or soaked in hot water, and the strained liquid drunk. Some claim the berry juice is good for kidney trouble.

Dena'ina plantlore in the Outer and Upper Inlet area of Lake Clark, the root is also used as a medicine, being used to remove a growth on an eye and to heal sore eyes. The roots are boiled and the eyes are washed with the strained, cooled tea, to which a little sugar may be added. Some people say blackberry stems can be used in the same way for these ailments.

Crowberries contain mostly water. Their vitamin content is low, as is also the concentration of volatile liquids, the lack of which makes them almost odorless. The acidity is lower than is typically encountered in forest berries, and benzene acids are almost absent.

Bruce MacIver on March 30, 2008

Nice Erik -- a very cool looking photo!

Erik van den Ham on March 30, 2008

Thank you Bruce,

It really was very cool that morning. I had to wait several times until my hands where warmed in my pockets to be able to take photos.

Greetz Erik

originaltk on July 17, 2010


Polifemo ( * ) on October 29, 2010

... a triangle that emerges of nothing, or of the deep one a little that we ignore...

Erik van den Ham on October 29, 2010

Hi pepljuga thanks for your Y* I'm so sorry to have missed your comment.

The best things in life come as a surprise Carlos, you keep surprising me!

Polifemo ( * ) on October 29, 2010

... I am grateful for the compliment that emerges of your affirmation!!!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 29, 2008
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Erik van den Ham