Can You Eat Wild Icelandic Berries?Published: 23. September 2017
If you're traveling in Iceland right now, you may be lucky enough to come across wild berries. Late summer and "autumn" in Iceland fruit a few different types you can find all over the island. You don't even need to worry about washing them intensively as they grow wild, organic, and pesticide free. Just give them a quick rinse and dry if you don't eat them all before getting back to the campervan.
These dark blue-to-black coloured berries are the most common of wild berries you'll find. They're less sweet and more bitter than the ever popular blárber, but nonetheless tasty. Most often they're used for baking into muffins and cakes or cooked down into jam. They're also the main ingredient for kvöldsól, or "night-sun," the only Icelandic wine available and Reykjavík Distillery's blueberry liqueur.
Look for these berries along any path or hillside facing the sun. They're tucked down between the branches of the plant which have a pine-like look to them. I found a gold mine of them huddled up near small rock formations.
Aðalbláber or Bláber- "Blueberries"
Don't get upset, but these blá-ber, or "blue berries," are technically bog bilberries. They're a bit different from the common imported blueberry you are familiar with and can find in the supermarket. Compared the shape of the crown and you'll notice a different pattern. They are blue in colour though, making them easy to identify from the dark crowberries.
The plant surrounding these berries is also noticeably different with large, soft, flat leafs.
This berry is the absolute rarest of Icelandic berries. If anyone reading this post stumbles upon some, please note where! They're incredibly hard to find even during the peak of the berry picking season. If you find some, they'll look just like tiny, baby versions of the strawberries you know, smaller than even most other wild strawberries.
If you can't find any, knock on the door of this dutch couple growing Icelandic strawberries in a greenhouse near Reykjholt.
Generally speaking bláber are more ripe prior to the first frost, krækiber better after a quick chill.
There aren't really plotted areas of the island known for picking, but generally the north is most fruitful. Various kinds can be found along any sun facing hillside if you're lucky. Your best bet is in unpopulated public areas, parks, and a few steps off of hiking trails. I've found krækiber on the hike to Reykjadalur, just 30 minutes outside of the capitol near Hvervagerði, and on the south coast outside Vík.
You're allowed to pick berries for consumption in all public areas. Unless you have permission from the land owner, don't attempt picking from their berry bushes.
My latest trip on the Reykjanes peninsula was fruitful with blárber on the cliffsides of Kleifarvatn. I also found a travel coffee mug's worth of krækiber along the southern shore and the Reykjanes lighthouse. Other well known spots near the capitol are Heidmörk recreational area, Hvalfjörður, Borgarfjörður, and in Þingvellir National Park. One of my absolute favourite spots in all of Iceland is near Fossarétt in Hvalfjörður. There you can find remnants of an old settlement, and a beautifully quaint waterfall. It's the spot for picking mussels along the shore in spring and you can surely find some berries in the fall.
Tips for the best berry picking experience:
- Bring a container with a lid or sealable plastic bag. Strong winds are common in Iceland and can knock your precious harvest out of your hands quickly.
- Dress for the weather. It's a statement that goes without saying when it comes to Iceland, but never underestimate the potential for rain storms. Check the weather most accurately with vedur.is.
- Resist eating them all while picking! You'll have so much pride in saving them for later to have on with skyr, and the wildlife will still have some snacks.
There are a few traditional ways to eat these berries in Iceland, some you can even cook up in your camper van!
Bláberjasúpa or "Blueberry soup" is essentially a soup like quick jam. Why make blueberries into soup? Why not?
Simmer about 500g of bláber with 1 liter of water gently until they burst. Then add 100g of sugar and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of potato starch in a bit of extra water and mix it in after removing the pot from heat. Serve it with some dry bread, cookies, nd a bit of whipped cream.
Skyrkaka is a very popular mousse-style cake made with melted white chocolate, vanilla skyr, whipped cream and an oat cookie base
Any berries compliment this popular dessert, but especially if they've been picked by the chef. Find this great cake in local restaurants serving traditional food all around the island. If you'd like to try making it yourself, try this recipe. If you have cravings for it outside of Iceland you can substitute generic berries and another thick style yogurt.
Good luck, happy camping, and happy picking!
Some of Michael's other adventures in Iceland include: