Natural berries, the treasure of Finnish forests
Finnish forests are full of delicious natural berries. There exist about fifty different kinds of berry plants, of which over half have edible berries. Approximately one of every two Finns collects berries for his own use. Here are some guidelines for identifying and using the most common natural berries.
The bright Nordic summer matures numerous berries in the forests and marshes. Berry-picking season normally begins in mid-July, when the first berries begin to ripen. Everyman´s right gives to everyone the possibility to pick up berries in any forest regardless of who owns the land.
According to studies by the University of Eastern Finland, more than 500 million kilograms of berries mature each year in Finnish forests. Of them, about 35-45 million kilograms are collected for the use of households and other 15-18 million kilograms for sale.
The benefits of berry picking
Berry picking is a popular pastime in Finland. Walking in the forest is a great outdoor activity and the berries can be used for pastries or they can just be eaten as such.
Berries are often called superfood for containing a variety of nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals, the chemicals in plants responsible for deep colors and smells, which can have numerous health benefits.
If you want to pick berries, it is important to recognize them. Here some of the most popular wild berries in Finland:
Blueberry - Mustikka
Blueberry grows typically in coniferous forest and is common throughout Finland. The dark blue color makes blueberry very easy to recognize.
Blueberry is an excellent source of vitamin E and it also contains vitamin C. Besides the vitamins, blueberry is also a very good source of dietary fiber.
Blueberry can be used in many ways: it can be eaten as such, used for baking or added to porridge or yogurt. Blueberries can also be stored for the winter and be enjoyed at any time of year.
Raspberry - Vadelma
The forest raspberry grows in bushes and is smaller than the garden raspberry. Forest raspberry can be collected and eaten directly from the forest. However, it is recommended to clean the raspberries well, though many small warms and bugs like them as well.
The forest raspberry contains, among others, vitamins B, C, A, E and K, and minerals, iron and iodine.
Raspberries are used, for example, in fresh, berry flour mixes, berry soups, pastries and berry juice. Berries can be conserved as frozen, juice, jam and dried. You can also eat the leaves or use them for salads and drinks.
Wild strawberry - Metsämansikka
Wild strawberry grows wild in light-filled, dryish, sloping broad-leaved forests and meadows. Smaller than garden strawberry, the wild strawberry has also a different taste.
Wild strawberries are best used freshly, but even when frozen, they retain their aroma quite well. Berries can be used also, for example, among salads.
Many people are allergic to strawberries, so young children in particular should be cautious.
Cowberry - Puolukka
The cowberry grows throughout Finland. The berry is easily identified by its dark red color and dark green leaves.
The best picking time for the cowberry is from late August to early October. The taste of cowberry is quite sour.
Cowberry contains vitamins E and C. The berry also contains mineral manganese and is a source of dietary fiber. There are also many different polyphenols found in the cowberry.
Traditionally, cowberry has been used as a meat supplement. It can also be used as a raw material for berry soups, porridge, oven dishes, pastries and juices.
Cloudberry - Lakka
Cloudberry typically grows in marsh areas. It grows all over Finland, but it is most abundant in Kainuu, Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland.
A cloudberry is easy to recognize for the orange color. Cloudberry contains vitamins C and E and is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Cloudberries are at their best fresh. It can also be used to make jams, juices, soups and desserts. As a beautiful berry, it is also used as a decoration.
Important to remember
Right clothing and footwear are always important in the forest. It is recommended to wear clothing that covers the skin and a headgear to avoid scratches, sunburn and mosquito bites.
Rubber boots are the best option to avoid possible snake bites.
There are no disease-carrying insects in Finland, but it is a good idea to carry some insect repellent and medicine for bites. In case of a tick bite, sometimes it is recommended to go to the doctor.