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research update


This could be the next ‘super fruit’


Lingonberry, a cold-climate cousin of the cranberry, has commercial potential inmilder southern B.C. By Grant Ullyot


A


team of scientists is evaluating the potential for lingonberries to be grown in southern B.C. The small red berry is a distant cousin to the cranberry. It’s tart, juicier than a cranberry and grows as a short evergreen shrub in cold climates.


It is the harsher northern climates that allow the berry to develop its acknowledged health benefits — but berries grown in milder conditions still have significant levels of anti- oxidants and phenolic compounds, notes study team member Dr. Kelly Ross, who works at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland.


“The research we are doing is to determine if lingonberries can grow in the more moderate B.C. climate. Lingonberries are a horticultural crop which has potential.”


Commercially, lingonberries are grown and cultivated in Europe, primarily in the Scandinavian countries. Oregon, Washington and B.C. have about 17 acres in commercial production. Some lingonberries are grown in northern communities of Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador.


16 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2015


Wild lingonberries have been found in more than 24 countries and are indigenous to the sandy, northern temperate, boreal forests of Canada, Alaska, Sweden, Finland and Russia.


The lingonberry is known by many names — among them cowberry, mountain cranberry, rock cranberry, dry-ground cranberry, lingen, lingberry, pomme de terre, partridgeberry, and foxberry.


Ross says her collaboration on the research project involves helping to assess health benefits of the lingonberry. The work is being led by Dr. Chris Siow at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s facilities in Winnipeg. Much of his work has centered on promoting blueberries as a ‘superfood’ because of the anti-oxidants and health benefits of blueberries. Now concentration is on identifying the health benefits of the lingonberry.


It has already been established that lingonberries have disease-fighting properties that reduce the risk of heart disease.


Now research has shown that water soluble fibre from lingonberries possesses anti-oxidant activity which is quite novel, says Ross, because of that link between phenolic and anti-oxidant activity.


Also, the water soluble fibres from lingonberries possess a remarkable potential anti-diabetic property in terms of inhibiting the enzyme called alpha-glucosidase. Doing so reduces the rate of complex starchy carbohydrates in the gastrointestinal tract.


Everybody has this enzyme and it causes less glucose to be


AGRICULTURE AND AGRI-FOOD CANADA


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