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In a berry field

It’s berry season in Iceland. At this time of year this country is filled with berries and the natives head out to what’s known as berjamó in Icelandic – which I suppose literally translates as “berry fields”. Going berry picking here is known as að fara í berjamó, which in absolutely literal translation would be “to go in a berry field”. Although in English you’d probably have to clarify: “to pick berries”.

Anyway, so AAH and I went in a berry field today, along with around 98% of the Icelandic population [if my friends’ Facebook statuses are anything to go by]. We decided that Þingvellir would be the perfect place – after all, we went there last year [well, not AAH] and picked enough blueberries to make jam to last, well, until about three days ago. I am not joking.

We hit the road at around 2 pm – a bit later than planned, but that was because something unexpected came up. A crew [if you can call two guys a crew] from the BBC turned up, shooting for a programme called Working Lunch [anyone know it?], who very kindly and politely asked if perchance our YT could be persuaded to stand out in the freezing wind on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams [a.k.a. Borgartún] at around noon and sum up the kreppa in 50 words or less.*

And I was happy to oblige.

BUT getting back to our berry field. As it turned out, the field was pretty much already looted. Sadly there were only a few berries here and there, and most of them were runts. To be fair, I couldn’t be sure whether this was due to human looting or the erratic weather conditions we had this summer – a long dry period, and a cold spell in July where it actually snowed up north [as in when we were on our hike last month].

What we DID find, however, was plenty of mushrooms. Here is what my pickins’ looked like:

My pickings

And this is what AAH came away with:

AAH's pickings

Here’s what the shrooms looked like once we’d cut them in two to make sure there were no worms in them:

Wild mushrooms

… They were subsequently sauteed in butter and will be relegated to the freezer until required for use.

We had to leave Þingvellir around five because AAH had to get to work … incidentally, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a picture of beautiful Peningjagjá [into which people insist on throwing coins for some absurd reason]:

Peningagjá

The water is so crystal-clear, it’s amazing:

Peningagjá

When we got home,  EPI and I went next door where our neighbour had once again kindly invited us to pick from her red and blackcurrant bushes [some of you may remember our berry extravaganza from last year]. So now we have a fridge stuffed with blueberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants, all waiting to be made into jam. Yowsa.

THERE HAS BEEN A COOL WIND
But it’s also been sunny, so if you were sheltered, like AAH and I were today, it was actually really nice. But make no mistake: summer is over and fall has arrived. It’s 10°C [50F] and the sun came up at 6.03, set at 8.51.

* Not really. But something like that.

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  • maría August 31, 2009, 2:07 am

    Lovely!
    This reminds me of when we lived in northwest Spain and we went berry picking too, in September. My mom’s jam was so popular, in the end we gave away so much of it that we were left with just the one pot. Sad.

  • Caroline August 31, 2009, 2:25 am

    My husband and I just returned from 3 beautiful weeks in Iceland – I confess, we picked some of those blueberries you were looking for at Þingvellir. And thank you for the tip a few months ago about the alternate trail below the cliffs. Very fun!

    We really enjoy reading your blog with all the information about the banking situation, economy and Icelandic life in general. It was an excellent warm-up for our trip. Now, we are going thru withdrawals from the best water in the world.

  • FRANK LYNCH August 31, 2009, 7:58 am

    The Working Lunch: Daily business analysis prog on the BBC, focusing on the world of business and finance, reporting the state of the economy and international business news.Popular with the nation’s execs as they chow down on the boardroom fatted calf and rich decanted wines at lunchtime. Here in Scotland, I also picked berries at the weekend with my kids: black,rowan and rose-hip.

  • Ljósmynd DE August 31, 2009, 8:51 am

    Last year I was doing a hiking tour during berry season in Jökulsárgljúfur NP. There can’t be a better doping available than picking blueberries by the wayside along the route every now and then. You don’t need anything else. Unfortunately, I’m going to miss the berries this year.

    “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” for Borgartún is quite to the point. I have seen it boastfully referred to as “Iceland’s Wall Street” (which would make Iceland Review the Wall Street Journal of Iceland). I always wonder, what they are planning to do with the new prominent high-rise glass tower in this street.

  • James August 31, 2009, 9:41 am

    An amazing blue in the last photo. You don’t see that looking into London’s Thames 🙁

  • Chris August 31, 2009, 9:42 am

    Funny, we have done exactly the same on the weekend. And the jam is very good…

  • jpeeps August 31, 2009, 10:09 am

    Berry picking is terrific therapy in my experience – a great wander away from the woes of the world. Alda, if you are at all fed up with jams and preserves, may I suggest you consider making some creme de cassis with the blackcurrants (and the other fruits as well for that matter). It’s easy-peasy and a bottle makes a great gift. The recipe I find best is not on the web, so, very briefly:

    For every 1 kg of fruit, you need 1 litre OK red wine, about 1.5 kg sugar, and vodka (or gin or brandy). Soak your berries, slightly crushed, in the wine for 48 hours, then press through a sieve, but not too energetically. To each litre of resulting liquid add 1 kg of sugar. Heat to dissolve sugar, stirring occasionally, for around two hours, but don’t let it boil – aim for 80c if you have a thermometer. It will reduce a little. Leave to cool, then stir in vodka in the ratio of 1:3. Pour through a funnel into bottles – wine bottles are fine if they are screw top. It will keep well. (This is basically a simplified Jane Grigson’s from the Fruit Book.)

  • alda August 31, 2009, 10:11 am

    Thanks, everyone.

    Caroline – glad you found it. 🙂

    Chris – just like I said – 98%!

  • Easy August 31, 2009, 10:50 am

    I acctually went berry picking too, but just here to Heidmörk and were there berries? everywere, wherever you looked wherever you steped, will have jam for the next 2 years at least, so at least jam we’ll eat. 🙂

  • WiseWoman August 31, 2009, 11:08 am

    Oh yes, that’s what I’ve been doing the past few weeks to amuse myself: picking berries and doing stuff with them. We have this amazing jam-making sugar that has all the chemicals necessary so that you just cook and pour. I have, however, ordered a jam funnel from the sugar people. My all-time favorite jam is white currant & grapefruit. I used pink grapefruit this year, and it is just perfect! One liter of white currants, two pink grapefruit (peeled, skins removed), one bag of jam sugar, cook and decant. It does, however, not last long around here.

  • ReallyEvilCanine August 31, 2009, 11:27 am

    You write “berjamó” and all I can think of is Magic Song To Quiet MildlyNaughtyPuppy #3

    Nú blánar yfir berjamó,
    og börnin smá í mosató…

    As for Working Lunch it’s a simple talking head format midday show. Imagine someone at the Ásatrufélag talking for 7 hours about the historical and literary reasons for believing that the number of pimples on Lóki’s ass could not have been greater than 11. Now get the Táknmálfréttir cameraman to direct the show. Bingo!

  • Chris August 31, 2009, 11:29 am

    @Alda: I seem to pick-up the icelandic culture. 🙂
    And “our” place above Nesjavellir was full of berries – some where not blue any more but nearly black – and yes, this have been blue berries.

  • Kate August 31, 2009, 12:48 pm

    Oh I remeber that berry-indulgence from last year when I was also somewhat more attentive to IWR… 🙂

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland August 31, 2009, 1:03 pm

    Alda Seen those pictures of your “summer” hike, is it always the case that in Iceland you must dress for potential artic type conditions, I have thought of turning up when there is enough light to see but still in with a chance of the Northern lights plus of course its off season, so therefore saving of the €, when does the northern lights season run from and do you see them in Reykavik? . Nice to talk about the weather on the Icelandic weather report,I mean otherwise its back to the old favorite Kreppa,Kreppa……..Kreppa !!

  • Elizabeth August 31, 2009, 1:27 pm

    ‘Working Lunch’ is a half-hour programme broadcast Monday – Friday at 12.30 pm on BBC2. It’s about all aspects of the economy – shares, house prices, financial matters, how to save money etc etc. Primarily aimed at business people (fitting nicely into their lunch-hour), it’s a very interesting and informative programme for anyone to watch. I’ll look forward to seeing your piece about the kreppa when it’s broadcast.

  • SOe September 2, 2009, 10:04 am

    We were hiking to the crater Eldborg (Snaefellsnes) and found lots of berries there. And yesterday, I found mushrooms on my way from work and in “my” garden in Reykjavik 🙂 YUMMY!

  • hildigunnur September 3, 2009, 9:31 am

    tons of berries where we went, in Grafningur but most of them very small. Apparently they’ve got huge berries in the West Fjords, but it’s just a wee bit too far to drive for berjamór.

    We also found mushrooms, larch ones, not fir like you, though. Luvly.

  • Rozanne September 7, 2009, 5:08 pm

    SAB!!!!

    Berry picking is popular here, too. Huckleberries are the main wild berry Oregonians pick. They’re very similar to blueberries, but they’re smaller and ripen later.

    Mushroom hunting is also popular. You and AAH got some very lovely pristine specimens. They look like Boletus edulis, AKA porcini mushrooms. Primo!

  • alda September 7, 2009, 9:50 pm

    Rozanne – I seem to recall that we had this conversation last year during berry season. 🙂