Timing of the essence in picking this year's elusive berry crop in Estonia

Cloudberries. Source: Ilkka Koivula / Pixabay

While Estonia's various native, edible berries require good timing on the part of pickers at the best of times, never has that been truer than this year, one of the worst years so far that many aficionados can remember, agricultural weekly Maaleht reports.

While in the past, it has tended to be the case that poor harvests of some types of berries are compensated for by larger amounts from other types, this year, the lack seems to be across the board.

Kristina Traks, director of the Emajõe-Suursoo  nature reserve in Tartu county, says her berries come from that reserve and from nearby Järvselja, areas not usually prone to drought, but this year, culverts have dried up, while you can keep your feet dry walking in the bogs, even in trainers – conditions normally more characteristic of the end of summer and early autumn.

As for specific types of berries, cloudberries (Estonian: Murakas, or in the plural, even this year, murakad) tend to be found on the margins of bogs, and not out in the open while, since they tend to spring forth at different times of the year in different parts of the country, even within different areas of the same district, simply following a friend's social media post as a heads up on when to go foraging is not the most effective strategy, Traks said.

This is compounded by the short window of time during which cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus) are ripe, particularly in hot and dry summers, so you have to be quick too – though when the time is right, harvests can be abundant.

Traks puts a rule of thumb on evaluating how good a season at this: If you can pick one liter of the berries in 15-20 minutes, it is worth going on, but if this is still wanting after an hour of picking, best to give up.

Wild strawberries (Metsmaasikad) and blueberries (mustikad) and, on the other hand, are not seeing a vintage season this year, thanks to the late spring frosts followed by early summer heat and drought – to the extent that those fruits you do pick can be barely edible.

Wild strawberries. Source: Jenny Va / ERR

A hedge against this, if you'll pardon the pun, is to freeze berries picked during a good summer, for use during poor seasons such as the summer of 2023.

Finally cranberries (Jõhvikad), for which Emajõe-Suursoo is well-known, are usually overflowing in their supply – it has not been unheard of of a tonne or more being harvested from one area – though again, this year seems to be bucking the trend, with berry pickers likely to struggle to take home much.

The original Maaleht piece is here.

Always take a local Estonian guide experienced in berry and mushroom collecting when heading for bog or forest, unless you fit that description yourself.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Maaleht

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