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Edible Landscaping... The Cloudberry Conundrum

Category: Gardening for Food | Posted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 12:48 pm

Rubus chamaemorus: Greek chamai ("dwarf") and morus ("mulberry") also known as Bakeberry, Baked-apple berry, Cloudberry, Malka, Moltebeere, Salmonberry (Not to be confused with Rubus spectabilis), Torfbeere, Yellowberry
Ahhh the cloudberry... possibly as ethereal as the name implies...

It took 2 years to get my hands on some seeds, and then I handled them the same way that I did the cranberries I had started from seed--to no avail. Hmmm...

Meanwhile, I had been searching all this time for information on the cloudberry, and at first, there were only 2 Google pages that came up in a search result. After 3-4 years now, there are many more pages. However, these pages are not particularly helpful to my cause: acquiring the plant.

My introduction to the cloudberry was late one night while watching a show called "Quest for the Bay" about 1937 Labrador. The show had a couple of families move to the Placentia Bay area and set up living like 1937: cod fishing, salting, and preparing for market; gardening, rationing food, and storing for winter; and so forth. One episode showed 2 of the women going out and picking "bakeapples".

After that, I looked for information on the fruit. After finding out what I could (which wasn't much), I decided I would like to grow it. That is when the trouble began.

As I said before, there was all of 2 Google pages. These pages included sites from Norway and others and were written in a language I do not know. Some pages were very scientific–no problem, I can read that–but I could not get into the site; I guess a university must have an account. I saw that one other person was looking for the plants and even paid someone money to find it on the web. The respondent gave a few nursery names, but the only one that actually had it listed for selling was out, and had a waiting list (I have been on that list for over 2 years). One other place that I found was a US Germplasm Bank. After writing and going from person to person, I finally was able to ask for seed. I was so happy to receive this seed! It was collected in Russia. About the same time, I was joining gardening websites. I found a very pleasant woman in Norway who had a pile of the berries in the freezer. She sent me a good amount of seed.

Well, seed is good. I have good luck germinating things. I have even germinated difficult things. Well, this is my 3rd year attempting to germinate these seeds, and I have gotten not-a-one! I have tried several different methods. I tried the ol' stratify in the fridge and then bring to warm. I have tried winter sowing outside. I have tried the warm-cold-warm stratification. The seed coats are hard and thick for a raspberry type plant, so I nicked the coat to speed aid germination. I have tried the bleach method. When I got the Russian seeds, there were some suggestions on germinating–which I followed–with no resultant sprouting.

In the fall, I met a very nice person from Newfoundland (on a gardening site). She said she would send me seeds. I told her of the hard time I was having. She said she had sent seeds before, and that person sprouted them. OK, maybe my seeds aren't as fresh as necessary. I am still hoping to work something out there.

This time, I am trying Gibberellic acid! I have read (in the new pages I can now find on Google) that this makes it possible to skip the stratification! We shall see...

Of course, I was told that I couldn't grow them here! Impossible, they said. Well, first (since this is experimentation) let me see if I can get one to sprout! Then I will worry about having the right climate. I have the perfect spot in my yard–a little micro-climate if you will.

All that said, I would still need to have plenty of plants going to get anything because the plants are dioecious (male & female separately)! I am still determined.

I also met a nice fellow gardener from Alaska. He has sent me seeds of other berries that are tough to get going–I have them all going. He plans to send me cloudberry seeds when he makes jam. The seeds he sends are a by-product of making jam (prior to heating of course!). He will strain them out and mail them to me.

Well, I have fresh seed pending; that is a good sign. I hope to get plants pending. I would like it if I could get 2-3 plants just to see if I could keep them going here. I will continue my experiments with the seed, and learn what I can from my failures.

It will be a great & surprising thing if I do succeed.

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sharon mc wrote on Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:38 pm:

That sounds like a really engrosing project! Hoping it succeeds for you.


Droopy wrote on Mon Mar 10, 2008 4:18 pm:

I'll follow your cloudberry experiment with interest, please remember to update us. We have them growing on marshes in the mountains. All you have to do, is find them before anybody else does.


Frank wrote on Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:08 pm:

I admire your persistence Robin, I'm sure you will achieve your goal very soon. And when you do be sure to let us know!

Robin282 wrote on Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:27 pm:

Thanks for your response. No, I had not seen that before.

I have my most recent experiment with seeds going. I have planted seed that had been treated in 3 different ways--all suggested by one authority or other.

I will know in spring if I have been successful.

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