The cloudberry, known in Finnish as lakka, hilla, valokki or suomuurain, is a perennial herb that grows in bogs. It is 10–25 cm tall, two-leafed, has a woody rhizomatous stem and grows a solitary flower. Its leaves are wrinkled and kidney-shaped. The plant is dioecious, meaning that the stamens and the pistils are located in separate individual plants. Its flower consists of five white petals and blossoms in June. The fruit changes colour a number times while growing: initially a soft greenish-yellow, it then turns a shade of red and ripens into an amber-coloured, juicy, flavourful and fragrant berry. Once ripe, the berry can be easily removed from its base.
Cloudberries grow in all parts of Finland, but are most abundant in the regions of Kainuu, Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland. Cloudberries mostly grow in natural bogs, but can also be found along the sides of new forest ditches and forest roads that traverse bogs. The undrained wetlands of Northern Finland produce the highest yield.
The picking season for cloudberries begins in the middle of July in southern Finland, while the harvest in northern Finland begins in early August. The crop varies from year to year. It is affected by the early blossoming of the plant, particularly in northern Finland where night-time frost can easily freeze the flowers. Since the cloudberry is dioecious, it may happen that a local population consists of only male or only female plants and therefore does not produce any berries at all. A blight affecting the species especially in northern Finland is the cloudberry beetle, which feeds on the leaves of the cloudberry plants before the berries are ripe.
Cloudberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 75 grams of the golden-yellow berries covering one’s daily requirement. Cloudberries also contain vitamin E in larger quantities than many fruits and grains. Cloudberry seed oil is particularly rich in vitamin E. Of all the wild berries, cloudberries contain the most fibre. They also contain ellagitannins, a polyphenol compound, as is typical for aggregates of drupes.
Cloudberries are at their best when fresh and minimally processed. They can be made into jams, juices, berry soups and desserts. The beautiful, bright-coloured berry is also suitable as a garnish for many dishes. Cloudberries are preserved frozen or juiced, or cooked to make jam. The valuable seed oil is also used in the production of cosmetics. Like the lingonberry, the cloudberry contains benzoic acid, which means that the berries can be preserved crushed in their own juice and stored in a cool place.