Saturday, November 04, 2006

rubus chamaemorus

recently while shopping, i was looking various jams and jellies and was reminded of a fruit uniquely found in certain parts of my country, as well as other northern european climes such as scandinavia, russia & greenland. it is an arctic and subarctic fruit with a distinctive taste of its own. i was always happy getting my small stash of these when someone i knew returned from trips to the areas where these grow wild here in quebec.

called bake apple here in canada, it is also known by its whimsical and more common name — cloudberry. it is sometimes called a salmonberry however this is incorrect. this little golden fruit really is evocative of a little fluffly cloud with a taste which is really hard to accurately describe without one trying it. it is sour and tangy with a certain degree of sweetness added to it. personally, i love it but have found it is a hit or miss kind of flavour with many people here who have never had it before.

why bake apple, you ask? it is really just the anglicized version of "baie qu'appelle", from the french. the bake apple is a member of the rose family. its fruit is at first red when unripe, changing to a bright orange upon maturity. in quebec it is known as chicouté and amongst the native innu & montagnais people of our region it is called chicotai.

this little fruit is costly as it is hard to come by unless you are living in places where it grows; it is also highly perishable in its fresh state. though not as popular here as it is in, let's say finland or sweden, it is well known amongst maritimers of newfoundland & labrador and those living in arctic tundra areas of the northwest territories and yukon where vegetation still grows. this fruit also grows in northern ontario.

cloudberries thrive in the cool and grow in peat & bog areas. the male & female plants require the cross pollination facilitated by insect pollinators such as flower flies & other critters in order to produce their plump little fruit. it requires the acidic environment of the peat bog to survive.

according to

The Bakeapple (Rubus Chamaemorus, also known as Cloudberry) is a part of the rose family and closely related to blackberries and raspberries. Its fruit is generally larger than that of either related group. It is a cloudy golden to orange color when ripe, boasting a unique flavor.

In the Labrador Straits area, blooming occurs immediately after the peatland thaws and aerial shoots are sent up. These shoots rarely grow over three centimeters and bear five white pedals. The actual fruiting of the berry occurs in July and ripens during the Labrador summer days. Wild bakeapples are plentiful in Labrador, where they are harvested by local pickers in mid August and used for countless recipes and dessert toppings.

The cloudberry grows in damp peatland type areas which are characteristically acidic. Cloudberry has separately sexed plants, the male and female plants appear to prefer slightly different microclimates, concentrating in different portions of the same bog. Large patches found on many of the bogs in the area are often descendants or "rhyzome clones" of the original parent plant in the patch. This means, with the help of insects and wind the entire patch is pollinated from one set of parents.

if you are scientifically oriented/interested, or even not, a very interesting and recent video [2005] about the cloudberry can be downloaded here. called berries: gold of the north, it is 25 minutes long and produced by the university of kuopio & the northern periphery programme but really worth watching and well done [it's a slow-ish download so be patient]. it describes how the fruit grows in finland [+ the arctic areas of europe] and discusses their attempts to improve its growth and how to protect it. they also talk about its use within the food industry.

when i asked my "newfie" friend about recipes, he gave me the standard bakeapple jam recipe they use [which can also be found on the internet]. so here it is:

bake apple jam


1 lb bakeapples
1 3/4 lb sugar


put sugar on berries and let stand overnight.

next day put on to cook, bringing the jam slowly to a boil.

boil 20-30 minutes. pour immediately into sterilized hot jars and seal.

melted brie & cloudberries


fresh cloudberries or cloudberry preserves


cut thick slices of baguette on the diagonal

place thickish slices of brie on it and melt in an oven. place several cloud berries atop the melted cheese and devour.

you can also use cloudberry jam as an alternative for the fresh berries should they not be available.

and one of my newer favourite books in my collection by cypriot-finnish cookbook authoress, tessa kiros:

falling cloudberries

picture: source --

this book is really a book that amazes you with its stories and stunning photography. i have not yet cooked from it. not your everyday kind of cookbook but one which should not be overlooked and definitely added to your collection. she also has other books out: apples for jam & twelve — a tuscan cookbook.

read a wonderful interview article about tessa in one of my favourite blogs, who wants seconds?