I’ve always liked berries! Growing up, our summer table very often had fresh sweet or tart berries and all winter our toast had jams and preserves to keep our mouths happy. I could walk outside and pick a handful to put on my cereal. I loved the berries dad planted. We had red raspberries (bringebær), black raspberries (Svart-bringebær), blackberries (bjørnebær or trollbær), gooseberries (stikklesbær) and red currants (rips). Dad didn’t use much Norwegian in the house, but he always told us the Norwegian names for berries. We did not grow strawberries (jordbær) or blueberries (blåbær), but we could easily go to “pick your own” farms in Wisconsin or Michigan to fill that need.
I never knew the work and to what length that some people would have to go to get their share of fresh berries, that is until I took a summer trip to Norway. During that trip, I learned how to appreciate berries the way Norwegians do by visiting my 2nd cousin (who lives on an island off the coast near Trondheim) and a friend of mine in Naustdal, Sunnfjord.
Marit (my 2nd cousin) asked if I wanted to go and pick blåbær, and of course I agreed. I was accustomed to picking blueberries at a farm so needless to say I was surprised when we put on our hiking gear, gathered our buckets and began our climbed up the fjell (mountain) behind her farm. After a little hike we came to a place where we would find the berries. The fruit was similar to the ones we had picked in Michigan, but different. I later learned that these berries were what we call bilberries, having the same family and genus as North American blueberries but classified slightly differently. The hike was magnificent. Because we were so high up we could see a very long distance down the coast. We could also see the sail boats and fishing boat moving past our little island. To get to this island we had to take two ferry boats from Trondheim. After a few hours picking, our buckets were full and we headed back down the mountain for home. Our hands were blue and my back was a little sore but we had a great time. Marit make a small cake and we had fresh blueberries on top.
After visiting Marit for a few days, I went on to visit my friend Aud in Naustdal. Her family owns a raspberry farm and restaurant near Naustdal. We enjoyed the fresh picked berries, juices and flavored ice at the restaurant. Had we only picked bringebær at the farm I would have been happy. The bringebær were big (an inch long in most cases) and juicy (because of the long but soft summer sun). Aud’s sister Else is a trained Chef and the cakes she made were out of this world. But, the best part of the whole stay at the farm was when Aud took me to her private and secret Molter patch on the mountain behind the farm. Molter (cloudberries) are a real treat. If you have only had the jam sold at the Ikea then you know only half the story. These berries grow in small bogs high up on the mountain and Norwegian generally guard their location like a card player guards his cards.
I had by now become accustomed to putting on hiking gear to go pick berries. But this mountain was significantly higher than the one I hiked with Marit, and the weather changed as we moved up the mountain. By the time we got to Aud’s hytte (mountain cabin) it had begun to rain. We ducked into the hytte for a few minutes to warm up some raspberry soft (juice) and have a cookie or two, then we donned our rain gear and hiked out to the bog. Molter grows very close to the ground, one berry per plant. You can see the berries from a distance because the berry sits on top of the plant. So in a gentle rain we picked berries until we had picked all that we could. It was then that I realized just how far people (and I’m now one of those people) would go to pick the best berry in all of Norway.
After returning to the farm we made a small jar of Multer preserves for me to take home. I put the multer with whipped cream on Krumkaker the following Christmas and shared it with my family. My tante (aunt) Solvieg took one look and broke into tears, “Multe!” she said. It made me cry too, she knew the work and love that went into making that small jar of multer preserves.