Category Archives: Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)

Ethnobotany of the Naukan speakers, Chukotka District, Russian Far East and Western Alaska


The attached link is an article written by Kevin Jernigan, Olga S. BelichenkoValeria B. Kolosova and Darlene J. Orr that compares uses of plants including berries from the past through elder recollections compared to present uses.  They also compared usage with communities in Nome and Kotzebue. Edible plant use has dropped overall from previous years (13%) but the awareness of medicinal uses has skyrocketed (+225%) no doubt because of the interest in antioxidants and other bioactive components. I completed a similar project in the mid 1990s in Ft. Yukon, Alaska and found about a 20% drop in native plant uses, but my project was before all the interest in antioxidants. 

Some of the plants whose use had actually increased include: wild chives (Allium schoenoprasum), tilsey sage (Artemisia tilesii), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), river beauty (Epilobium (Camerion) latifolium, mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna), sour dock, (Rumex arcticus), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The plant locally called stinkweed or tilsey sage is interesting because I found it mentioned in nearly every ethnobotanical reference written in Alaska. It has extensive medicinal uses throughout the state and now the Russian Far East. All the berries mentioned are also the most popular berries harvested in northern Alaska. The berry with the greatest increase in uses from the past is mesutaq better known as masru, lingonberry or low bush cranberry. No surprise there!



Healthy Northern Berries Improve Glucose Utilization

This study from Norway centered around glucose control in the liver. The researchers studied the pathways of glucose uptake and described the enzymes used in the final steps of carbohydrate digestion as alpha-amylase and alpha glucosidase. Any chemical that inhibits these enzymes will slow glucose uptake in the liver and be a benefit to anyone dealing with type 2 diabetes. They studies a lot of berries (bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), black currants (Ribes nigrum),  bog whortleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitas-idaea), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), red currant (Ribes rubric), rowan berries (mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia), and sea buckthorn (Hippophae (Elaeagnus) rhamnoides). The phenolic compounds in all the berries inhibited response the enzymes that promote glucose uptake. Some berries had other chemicals that actually promoted glucose uptake: mountain ash and bilberry being the highest. The berries with the most powerful inhibitors were crowberry, cloudberry, bog whortleberry (bog blueberry), and lingonberry with crowberry being ranked number 1!


Documenting Change in Nunavut

Here is a thesis that explores climate change through berries near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada. The program is part citizen science as well as documenting the ethnobotany of the region. It includes great summaries of the most important berries and even some recipes!


Flavonoids in Crowberry, Empetrum nigrum

This is an interesting article on the value of crowberries in the diet. Lots of people harvest this fruit although many people consider it tasteless, nothing more than a thirst quencher if you are out hiking in the woods. They are tiny, and you have your work cut out for you to harvest enough to do anything with, but they are good.

Empetrum nigrum

Black Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.) Flavonoids and Their Health Promoting ActivityTunde Jurikova 1, *, Jiri Mlcek 2 , Sona Skrovankova 2 , Stefan Balla 1 , Jiri Sochor 3 , Mojmir Baron 3 and Daniela Sumczynski 2 1 Institute for Teacher Training, Faculty of Central European Studies, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Drazovska 4, SK-949 74 Nitra, Slovakia; 2 Department of Food Analysis and Chemistry, Faculty of Technology, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, nam. T. G. Masaryka 5555, CZ-760 01 Zlin, Czech Republic; (J.M.); (S.S.); (D.S.) 3 Department of Viticulture and Enology, Faculty of Horticulture, Mendel University in Brno, Valticka 337, CZ-691 44 Lednice, Czech Republic; (J.S.); (M.B.)  Published: 7 December 2016

Abstract: Nowadays, much research attention is focused on underutilized berry crops due to the high antioxidant activity of fruits. Black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.) represents an important source of flavonols (quercetin, rutin, myricetin, naringenin, naringin, morin, and kaempferol) and anthocyanins. The fruit components could be utilised as natural colourants or as a part of functional foods and, because of the high antioxidant activity, the berries of black crowberry can be used in the treatment of diseases accompanied with inflammation, or as an effective antibacterial and antifungal remedy. Moreover, the reduction of lipid accumulation and total cholesterol as well as an improvement of postprandial hyperglycaemia have been proven. This review summarizes for the first time the main antioxidants (flavonoids) of black crowberry fruits, with a focus on their health promoting activity.

Spruce Bark Beetles and Berries

Being from the Kenai Peninsula and having first hand experience with spruce bark beetle die off in my home town of Moose Pass, it was interesting to read the effects the spruce bark beetle die off had on berry populations in the area. This article goes into depth about the effect tree coverage had on the berry stands in the area after the trees began to grow back after the spruce bark beetle die off. Each berry tested had slightly different results, but for the most part they averaged being the most productive at 50% coverage, then loosing productivity after that. BE Moose Pass, AK

Abstract: “Land managers on the Kenai Peninsula have responded to recent extensive infestations of forests by spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis (Kirby)) and associated increased fire risk with a variety of management approaches. To provide additional ecological information upon which to base these management prescriptions, we evaluated the response of the cover of berry species to variations in landscape factors and environmental conditions, including crown closure. Data were sufficient to describe the response of cover of bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis), black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), false toadflax (Geocaulon lividum), strawberryleaf raspberry (Rubus pedatus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and a combination of 24 other species through multinomial logistic regression. Crown closure and forest overstory type significantly influenced the cover of all berry species. Increasing crown closure had a negative effect on all berry species except strawberryleaf raspberry. Level of infestation by spruce beetles was significantly related to the cover of all species except lingonberry. Our findings indicate that spruce forests may be managed to enhance berry cover and that choice of management technique (e.g., timber harvest, prescribed fire) will likely result in different outcomes.”

During, L.H., M.I. Goldstein, S.M. Howell and C.S. Nations. 2008. Response of the cover of berry-producing species to ecological factors on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, USA Canadian Journal of Forest Research.Vol. 38, No. 5 : pp. 1244-1259

Anthocyanin Composition and Antioxidant Activity of the Crowberry

Thirteen kinds of anthocyanins were identified in freeze dried crowberry extract. The total content was higher than nine other major berry species. It also held the highest antioxidant content.

Crowberries are suggested to help prevent chronic diseases due to their high antioxidant activity. KH Fairbanks
Kenjirou, Ogawa. Hiroyuki, Sakakibara.Rei, Iwata.Takeshi, Ishii. Tsutomu, Sato. Toshinao, Goda. Kayoko, Shimoi. And Shigenori, Kumazawa. 2008. “Anthocyanin Composition and Antioxidant Activity of the Crowberry.” Journal of Agric.Food Chem. 56 (12) pp4457-4462.

Crowberry Pie

Recipe for Crowberry Pie:

-Pastry for double-crust, 9 inch pie (unbaked)

-4 C crowberries

-2 Tbsp lemon juice

-1 C granulated sugar

-1/3 C flour

-1/8 tsp ground cloves

Line pan with pie crust. In a large mixing bowl combine crowberries, lemon juice, sugar, flour, and cloves; mix well and pour into unbaked pie shell.

Dampen edge of shell with water, add top crust and flute edge. Slit top of pie.

Bake at 425F for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to 375F and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove and cool.

Yields 6-8 servings