Sandburg's Hometown

June 9, 2014

Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. (Lingonberries) - 19th century botanical illustration

Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingonberry or cowberry) - 19th century illustration


by Barbara Schock

People either like or detest lingonberries. They are a small, dark red, sour-tasting fruit which grow on low bushes in the northern reaches of Europe and North America. The plant is native to the tundra where snow cover can protect it down to minus forty degrees. It is related to cranberries and blueberries.

The berries are quite tart so they are usually cooked and sweetened. They can be mashed with sugar and frozen. In Sweden this relish is frequently served with reindeer and elk steak, along with gravy. The preserved fruit is commonly served with meatballs and potato pancakes. In olden days lingonberries were kept in bottles of water. This preserved them through the winter. Eating them prevented scurvy—a life-saving remedy for the people of the northern climes

Lingonberries have many nutritional properties. They contain vitamins A, C., B-1, B-2, B-3 and potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous as well as phytochemicals and omega-3 fatty acids. It is believed the berries boost levels of good cholesterol and improve blood pressure.

In the most northerly states of this country, small farmers are beginning to grow lingonberries for the market. They grow easily and have a unique taste with plenty of healthy components.

We don't know if Clara Sandburg ever served lingonberries to her family. There is no mention of them in the writings of Carl Sandburg. Surely, as youngsters growing up in Sweden, his parents ate lingonberries in one form or another.

Americans are probably most familiar with pancakes with lingonberry sauce or lingonberry preserves on toast. Here is a recipe for Poor Knights, often called French Toast, to encourage our readers to try some lingonberries.

6 slices day old bread

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup milk

Beat egg with milk and other ingredients. Place bread in a shallow container and pour over egg mixture. Turn bread to soak up more of the liquid. Fry in butter in a heavy skillet, turning once. Serve with lingonberries and cream.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity