July 8, 2020

Eating Crowberry

Empetrum nigrum - Black crowberry

Empetrum nigrum – Black crowberry | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Good things often come in small, low-growing packages, including Empetrum nigrum, or black crowberry. This creeping 6-inch-tall shrub of bogs, cold forested wetlands and alpine zones prefers the more northerly climes of the upper tier of the United States and all of Canada. In New England, it is found only in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The dark fruits give the plant its common name and provide more than 40 species of songbirds and waterfowl – along with mammals such as black bears – with a food source. Humans can eat them, too, and one Canadian company – Dark Tickle – employs crowberry and other unusual wild berries in numerous products, such as jams, spreads and sauces. The folks at that Newfoundland-Labrador company say crowberry tastes best after a frost and can be harvested into December.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.