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MY ICELAND: Berjamó

As I mentioned in a previous post, berries – especially blueberries and crowberries – grow wild in Niceland and reach their ultimate ripeness in late August to early September. That’s when Nicelanders head out to the fields with their buckets and Tupperware containers to scoop up these oh-so yummy yields of the earth. I think just about every Icelander has fond memories of being in a berjamó [literally: berry field] as a child with packed sandwiches and hot chocolate in a thermos. There’s even a little child’s verse about going to a berjamó that’s about as common here as Mary Had a Little Lamb …

Könguló, könguló,
vísaðu mér á berjamó.
Fyrir bláa berjaþúfu
skal ég gefa þér gull í skó,
húfu græna, skarlatsskikkju,
skúf úr silki og dillidó.

Which loosely translated reads:

Spider, spider,*
Show me the way to a berjamó.
For a blue berry tussock
I will give you gold in your shoe
A green cap, a scarlet cape,
A tassel of silk, and dillidó.**

One of the best places to pick berries in the vicinity of the capital is in and around Þingvellir national park, and that’s where we headed yesterday. I don’t know if the recession is to blame, or if it was just because yesterday was the first rain-free, semi-sunny day in a long time, but just before we got to the entrance to the park we saw loads of cars parked near the road and dozens of people out in the fields with their backs bent, looking alarmingly like Chinese peasants. A lot more than usual, it seemed to me.

We didn’t join them, however, but carried on our merry way, convinced that the berries inside the actual park would be bigger, better and more beautiful than those outside it. However, as soon as we drove through the gates it started to rain. And not just rain – pour.

Undaunted, we still carried on, certain that the shower was just near the entrance and we’d remain blissfully dry in our berjamó inside the park . Because, you know, it’s a sacred place and everything, plus it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List and they wouldn’t put any place on that list that would allow rain when people went there to pick berries.

BEEP! Wrong. About two minutes after we stepped out of the car, it started to drop. I managed to take one photo of peningjagjá, or “money fissure” – thus dubbed because people throw coins in there – before it started to rain …

Þingvellir fissure

Not to be undone, we bravely carried on with our mission …

EPI & Ragnheiður

And in between the sun even came out, illuminating the crystal clear waters of the fissures that run all throughout the park…

Þingvellir fissure

For those of you who don’t know, Þingvellir is the site of our old Parliament, or general assembly, which first convened around 930 AD. It’s also where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet and are pushing apart at a rate of a couple of centimeters a year. Hence all the fissures.

Anyway, there were blueberries in delicious abundance, so much that we could virtually scoop them up and into our containers, which we filled in no time. We headed back home about an hour after we’d arrived … rather bedraggled from the rain, but otherwise mighty pleased with our pickins’.

Meanwhile, the evening was devoted to making jelly out of our red currants. Behold:

Redcurrant jelly mmmm...

It is BEYOND good. I had it on a piece of toast this afternoon and just about swooned into delirium. Sadly, however, the black currants had been unable to survive the wait for our devoted attention and had gone all mouldy. Sniff. The gooseberries have also had to wait their turn … hopefully they’ll still be OK; they seem pretty robust.

IT HAS BEEN SUCH A FABULOUS DAY
The late-summer sun has been out all day with just a haze of clouds in the sky. One of those benign and lovely days that comes like a bonus just when it seemed that summer had bid a final farewell. The forecast for the week is similar, which is delightful.

* Yes, there are spiders too, in copious numbers.
** As far as I can ascertain, this doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s just, like, a filler. Or a rhymer. And no, it doesn’t mean dildo.

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  • Bluegrass Mama September 1, 2008, 8:35 pm

    Ooh, that red currant jelly looks good! However, I have something weird going on with my taste buds, and I really don’t care for blueberries. Even I don’t understand it.

  • Skúli Pálsson September 1, 2008, 9:23 pm

    Ég gerði svona rifsberjahlaup um daginn. Með pönnukökum er það guðafæða!

  • Dorothy Gale September 1, 2008, 9:34 pm

    The best berries we had in Iceland were in Hrisey, in Eyjafjörður…
    Peningjagjá I always found a bit scary. The water is so crystal clear, it’s unreal, and the fissure goes down and down, like a bottomless pit, you just cannot see where it end. In places, it’s like it’s waiting to swallow you if you fell in the water, never to be seen again.

  • Djaddi September 1, 2008, 10:08 pm

    Ooh, nice :). We were showing a visitor the golden circle this weekend so we stopped by Þingvellir and I hurriedly picked up some blueberries. I need to go there someday after work this week.
    I can also testifiy after this weekend that there are a lot of crowberries in Djúpalónssandur. But then again those berries are everywhere 🙂

    Are the red currants the slightly transparent ones?

  • Dankoozy September 1, 2008, 11:10 pm

    Do they get the tupperware at tupperware parties?

  • alda September 1, 2008, 11:19 pm

    Cat – don’t like blueberries?? Have you tried them wild? They’re usually a lot tastier than the cultivated ones.

    Skúli – algjörlega sammála. Himneskt!

    Dorothy Gale – I agree, you wouldn’t want to fall in there. It’s so cold, you’d cramp up and drown in an instant. However, those fissures are a paradise for divers, I’m told. I’ve seen photos that look utterly amazing. It’s a wonderland down there!

    Djaddi – the forecast is good for this week, so you should definitely grab the chance. We left lots there for you. 🙂
    And yes, the red currants are sort of transparent. Not entirely, though.

  • alda September 1, 2008, 11:20 pm

    Dankoozy – actually we don’t have Tupperware parties here. They’re just sold in stores.

  • Jessie September 2, 2008, 1:22 am

    Yum! And what a beautiful place to pick them!

  • Cheeky Spouse September 2, 2008, 12:39 pm

    I have to grow blueberries in my garden as they don’t grow wild where I live.
    I’ve been to Þingvellir a couple of times and it is an amazing and beautiful place. Perfect to spend time picking berries.
    Here in the UK we all tend to go wild blackberry picking at this time of year. It’s been a good year for them – there are loads!

  • Dumdad September 2, 2008, 1:50 pm

    Könguló – what a cool word for a spider! My Icelandic education moves forward…..

  • Rozanne September 3, 2008, 4:58 am

    Well, what an amazing place to pick blueberries. Looks like you got quite a haul.

    Those fissures are amazingly beautiful. I love that turquoise color of the water. The water in certain streams near Mount St. Helens is that color. I wonder if it’s a volcanic thing?

  • sigga September 3, 2008, 10:29 am

    hmmm berries, this is by far the best time of year. Berries then sheep and horse round up, so much to do, so little time. We went up to the top of the hill behind the town on the weekend and on the way there were so many berries – a veritable carpet of them, which made the walk twice as long as it should have been but twice as enjoyable.

  • alda September 3, 2008, 10:35 am

    Jessie – indeed!

    Cheeky Spouse – blackberries are amazing, too. Mmm.

    Dumdad – how many words is that now? … 10? 20? 50? 😉

    Rozanne – the turquoise is not actually in the water – in the first pic it’s a reflection on the surface, and in the second the colour is actually on the bottom of the fissure. Which may mean it is a volcanic thing since the geology would presumably be similar.

    sigga – a long, leisurely berry walk. Perfect!

  • Chris September 3, 2008, 1:02 pm

    Hmm, I should go there next weekend. Can you say something about the color of the leaves? Is it alreasy red and yellow? I would like to make some photo of this beautifull colors, but I don’t know, if they are already there…

  • hildigunnur September 4, 2008, 10:23 am

    Alda, what? Sure have Tupperware parties here, I’ve been to a few – even bought some stuff. Never seen real Tupperware in shops, though a lot of similar stuff.

  • alda September 4, 2008, 10:30 am

    Chris – actually when we were there last weekend it was still pretty green. I’d say it’s about 2-3 weeks until the fall colours have really set in.

    hildigunnur – OOOPS!! Sorry about that – I had no idea. I’ve never been invited to one [SOB!][just kidding] and never heard of them, so this is completely new to me. Thanks for the correction – glad someone is fact-checking. 🙂