One of the myths I often see regarding Norway is that it’s illegal to pick unripe cloudberries here. The amazing freedom to roam law allows anyone to pick any berry in the wild, including cloudberries, but is it really a law that forbids you from picking them before they are ripe?
It is no longer illegal to pick unripe cloudberries, but it was until 2004! You could get fined by picking cloudberries that were unripe, and didn’t easily separate from the plant when picked, but actually getting a fine was extremely rare and only done in the most extreme cases.
So it’s no longer illegal to pick unripe cloudberries, so you have nothing to worry about. The law was made defunct in 2004, so you cannot be prosecuted or fined by it any longer.
That said, it’s still frowned upon to pick unripe cloudberries. Locals might actually be a bit annoyed if they see you pick them before they are ripe, because you are literary wasting a public resource before it’s even ready.
It is also believed that the plant itself is damaged from a too early harvest, and that it will not produce new berries the next year if an unripe berry was harvested from it.
I strongly advise against picking unripe cloudberries when visiting Norway, even if it’s technically legal now.
How to know if the cloudberries are unripe
You can see an unripe cloudberry on the photo below. Notice that it still has part of the plant covering it. Compare this to the photo at the top, and you will notice that the plant cover part falls down as the cloudberry is ripe.
Another thing to be aware of is that ripe cloudberries are distinctly orange. Any hint of red means that the cloudberry is unripe.
Why some people pick unripe cloudberries
There are lots of people that for various reason pick unripe cloudberries. They can technically still get ripe after being picked, but pretty much everyone agrees that these taste way worse if you compare them with the real deal.
Most people who pick unripe cloudberries do so because they don’t really have the knowledge about them. Cloudberries have kind of a mythical spot in the Norwegian public, and many people simply don’t know how and when to pick them.
This leads to a lot of people who are not really that experience with harvesting in the mountains picking unripe cloudberries without knowing that they make a mistake. They just pick and them are happy that they found this elusive berry.
Many tourists do the same. I have met many foreign tourists will bucks full of unripe cloudberries in the mountains. These are simply just ruining the berry season (and next year’s season!) for everyone else..
A closer look at the old law forbidding the picking of cloudberries
The Norwegian government implemented a law against picking unripe cloudberries in 1970 with the name “Lov om forbud mot plukking av moltekart.”, which can be translated to “Law forbidding the harvest of unripe cloudberries“.
The reason for implementing this law was to prevent the damage this caused to the plant. It is believed that picking unripe cloudberries damages the plant, reducing the harvest for the following year.
The law itself was really simple, and has 4 main points:
§1: It is illegal to pick unripe cloudberries before they are fully ripe.
§2: Anyone who picks unripe cloudberries can get a fine, but only when it’s needed for public interest.
§3) Each county is free to choose to not have the law apply in their county.
§4) This law is in effect immediately (from July 25 1970).
To see the law text for yourself, click here to be taken to the law to Lovdata. This is obviously only available in Norwegian.
The law was completely removed in 2003. You might think that there was a good botanical reason for removing it, but the reality was that it was removed because it was not really used, and it was considered extremely difficult to actually govern.
So it’s no longer illegal, but keep in mind that we have some weird things that are surprisingly illegal in Norway. One of these is harvesting cloudberries in certain parts of Northern Norway, so make sure to read up on that before you go harvesting cloudberries.