By Dr. Mercola
Bright-colored berries, popularly eaten on their own or added to various dishes, are known to deliver vital health benefits. Aside from the usual strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, there are more berry varieties out there, some of which you might have not even heard of. Cloudberry is one interesting example.
What Is Cloudberry?
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus L.)1 comes from the rose family of plants, and is a close relative of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apple.2 It grows in arctic or alpine environments3 and/or boreal forests in the northern hemisphere.4
The cloudberry plant is common in Russia, Northern Europe and Scandinavia, although it was also spotted in the British Isles, Newfoundland, Canada and Alaska. Unfortunately, there isn’t much cultivation of cloudberry, so this isn’t widely exported to the rest of the world.
A low-growing perennial, cloudberry typically grows in boggy and open tundra or forests. The plant is dioecious, meaning there are male or female cloudberry plants, with the latter known to produce cloudberry more often.5,6
Cloudberry fruits form on very slender stems that aren’t more than 2 to 8 inches high. The plant has two to three circular leaves with rounded lobes and toothed edges, as well as a single white, five-petal flower. The berry itself is comprised of six to eight drupelets, forming a small roundish berry.7
An unripe cloudberry fruit is hard, red and sour, but as it ripens, it softens and lightens, turns either a rosy peach or amber hue and develops a sweet flavor. Cloudberry retains its distinct shape because of its juice. When the juice oozes out, a small percentage of fiber (found in the thin skin) and a number of seeds remain.8 You can use these to grow new cloudberry plants.9
Health Benefits of Cloudberry
Just like other berries, cloudberry can positively impact the body by:10
✓ Improving the immune system: Cloudberry contains vitamin A that provide you with carotenoids that act as antioxidants that may help protect the skin and the eyes.
Meanwhile, vitamin C can stimulate white blood cell production and serve as an antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals.
✓ Helping with blood circulation: High amounts of iron in cloudberry can be important for blood circulation.
Iron is a key factor in red blood cell production, and may help you reduce the risk for anemia.
✓ Helping improve heart health: Cloudberry is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that can help balance your body's cholesterol levels and decrease strain on the cardiovascular system.
✓ Optimizing the digestive system: Cloudberry contains dietary fiber that may aid in stimulating a peristaltic motion, helping decrease constipation, bloating, cramping and may even help you avoid serious conditions like gastric ulcers.
Dietary fiber can also help regulate insulin receptors in the body, and ensure regular release of sugar into the bloodstream that may assist in preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.
Plus, phenolics in cloudberry may be beneficial in preventing development of gastrointestinal pathogens.
✓ Enhancing bone health: Magnesium in cloudberry increases the uptake potential of calcium by the body.
This mineral can also assist with maintaining good bone health, help lower risk for osteoporosis and prolong the duration of your “active life.”
✓ Improving skin health: Ellagic acid is another important antioxidant in cloudberry.
Studies showed that ellagic acid can help with slowing down aging, decreasing the appearance of wrinkles and potentially lowering chronic disease risk.
Common Uses of Cloudberry
Because of their juicy and tart quality, cloudberry is added to recipes for candies, jams, alcoholic beverages and other baked goods.11 Cloudberry is dominantly used in traditional Scandinavian cuisine, although it also appears in Inuit cuisine.12 Indigenous tribes in northern Canada regarded cloudberry as an important dietary component as well.13
Historical documents also revealed that cloudberry was utilized by Norwegian sailors and North American Eskimos to prevent and treat scurvy,14 while its roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes.15 Meanwhile, ancient Scandinavians drank an herbal tea made from cloudberry leaves to ease urinary tract infections.16
Growing Cloudberry at Home
The cloudberry plant can withstand low temperatures, so it’s suitable for growing in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Cloudberry may grow easily in high-quality loamy soils, in areas that are either partially shaded or receive enough sunlight.17
You can propagate cloudberry from seeds, but make sure to stratify these first for a month at a temperature of 37 degrees F. After stratifying, sow the seeds as early as possible in the year.18 When the seedlings grow large enough and can be handled properly, prick and continue growing in a cold frame, then move the plants to their permanent place outdoors in the spring of the following year.19
The cloudberry plant can also be propagated via the roots. Root division must be done at the beginning of spring or before the plants start shedding leaves in autumn.20 Because cloudberry plants grow in the wild, these need very little maintenance. However, you should remember these measures that’ll help you reap exceptional berries:21
• Water the plants regularly to keep them moist but not soggy.
• You can increase cloudberry production if you fertilize the plants with a general 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring.
• Plant at least one male cloudberry plant per approximately five female plants to prompt berry production.
• When the plants become rootbound in the pot, divide them and replant in additional pots.
Cloudberry often ripens during late July through early August. Depending where you live, it’s best to gather the berries in mid- to late summer. A ripe cloudberry is soft and amber-colored with a pink blush, and can come off the stem very easily.22 You can tell whether a cloudberry is ripe or not by touching it. Using three of your fingers, gently feel the fruit’s tenderness. A cloudberry isn’t ready to be harvested if it’s either hard, firm, slightly firm or slightly half firm. A cloudberry is ripe if it’s soft and slightly bouncy.23
To harvest cloudberry, gently pull the berry to allow it to break free from the stem. If you end up with half a berry being left on the plant, it might be because the fruit is overripe or because you pulled the berry off the stem with a sloppy side motion, instead of pulling it straight.24
Cloudberry should be picked by hand, since these are too delicate to be handled by a picking tool. Avoid using buckets since there’s a tendency for the pile of berries on top to be so heavy that it’ll crush the berries underneath it into juice. Place the berries in a shallow container instead.
After picking, place the fruits gently into the container to retain their shape. Gathering berries in your hand can create pressure and trigger the bottom layer of berries to start leaking juice. At home, avoid washing the berries because they might disintegrate.
What Are the Qualities of a Good Cloudberry?
Cloudberry plants are rare, so it’s difficult to find in stores or in farmers markets. This is where cultivating cloudberry plants can be beneficial, since it can ensure that you have a steady supply of these berries.25
For best flavor and keeping quality, cloudberry should be picked at peak ripeness, and must be eaten or preserved on the same day. Handle the fruits as gently and as little as possible, and avoid washing them unless they’re dusty. Don’t forget to pick through the berries to remove leaves or debris too.26
After harvesting, refrigerate clean berries in a shallow container. An advantage of cloudberry is its naturally high benzoic acid content, allowing the fruits to keep without spoiling or fermenting for longer than expected. Afterwards, you can use the berries to make cloudberry jam or add it to baked goods.27
Because cloudberry isn’t common in other parts of the world, there isn’t much research focusing on its long-term effects on your health. As a precaution, consume cloudberry in moderation. If you have pre-existing insulin resistance, you might exacerbate your condition if you eat too many berries, because cloudberry tends to be very sweet.
There is no significant amount of allergen reporting linked to this fruit. Although cloudberry isn’t known as an allergen, there is a unique combination of nutrients and acids in the fruit that may prompt side effects. As such, you might want to consult your physician or a health expert first and undergo an allergen patch test to see how your body responds to cloudberry.
Health Benefits of Cloudberry Seed Oil
Cloudberry seed oil, which is extracted from cloudberry seeds, offers various benefits. It’s abundant in oleic, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, vitamins A and E and plant sterols.28,29 This oil also contains different antioxidants like carotenoids that may help increase protection against UV rays, and plant compounds called phytosterols can help strengthen cell membranes.30
These beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants may help combat free radical damage, improve the skin’s moisture retention and tone, assist in making the skin look bright, fresh and radiant, help with fading age spots and potentially lessen inflammation.31,32 Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research yet discussing the long-term side effects of cloudberry seed oil. Talk to a physician or a trusted health expert first and take a skin patch test prior to using this essential oil to see how your skin will react to it.