What Are Lingonberries And What Do They Taste Like?

If you had to name the key flavors that define Swedish cooking, many of us would scramble to remember every specialty product found at Ikea's food court. Swedish meatballs, delicate cakes, and shortbread cookies have conquered the world via this furniture giant, but many of us couldn't complete a visit to Ikea's food court without sampling some lingonberry sauce or juice. While we may have heard about this fruit via Ikea, most of us have likely not seen one of these berries growing in the wild in person unless we recently visited Scandinavia. The curious nature of this fruit has led us to wonder where this berry came from, and the facts may surprise you.

According to Care Omnia, lingonberries are tiny, red berries that grow on bushes that range from two to 16 inches tall and rarely get cultivated, meaning that many people have to forage to collect these fruits. They grow in cold, northern climates, stretching all the way from Canada, to Russia, and they even pop up occasionally in China and Italy. The lingonberry not only plays a major role as an ingredient in sauces and jams, but they can also get turned into a high-nutrient juice and last on shelves much longer than many other fruits due to naturally occurring Benzoic acid, according to Care Omnia. While the fruit leads an interesting life, its flavors have really stood the test of time and continue to impress.

The taste of a lingonberry

If you've never tasted a lingonberry, you might compare it closely to a cranberry. According to Fona, the fruit has a tart and slightly sweet flavor. It's light enough to get eaten raw or used to make wines, baked goods, jams, and sauces. According to the BBC, the berries go great as an accompaniment to traditional Swedish dumplings, Karelian hotpot, and even steak tartare. Their acidic nature makes them a great accompaniment to balance out a meal and if you want to explore an ingredient we don't often see in the United States, tracking down a pint of these berries can excite any self-avowed foodie. 

The hardest part of enjoying lingonberries in the United States stems from their lack of availability. While finding fresh berries can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, Walmart has you covered if you want to enjoy their flavor without making an Ikea trip. According to Walmart, the store offers a selection of lingonberry jams and preserves you can try for any home cooking or baking project your heart desires. Just make sure to make some extra, as everyone will want seconds of this exotic and delectable flavor that can make any mouth water.