Bring On The Berries
The sheer abundance of wild food in the Finnish nature is truly amazing. Wild edibles exist almost everywhere and because of the purity of our environment we can forage in most places. The everyman’s rights give us a blessing to forage and experience a glimpse of a self-sufficient lifestyle.
But do we really understand how lucky we are? There are about 500 million kilos wild berries growing annually in the harsh Finnish forests, fells and swamps. On a propitious year approximately two billion kilograms of edible mushrooms are hiding in the woods. Wild herbs and vegetables cannot even be counted. Only 10 percent of the berry crop and only 1–2 percent of the mushroom crop is harvested. Maybe we could do just a little better and harvest a bit more of these packageless and natural foods?
Finnish wild berries
If we would pick all the berries here in the land of the midnight sun, every Finn could eat 100 kilos of berries per year. Berries are known to be filled with vital nutrients and essential antioxidants. Imagine what gorging that amount of berries would do the public health!
The berry selection in the Finnish nature is versatile. In addition to cultivated berries, there are about 50 species of wild berries growing in Finland, of which 37 are edible. Sixteen of these are picked for consumption, most importantly lingonberries, bilberries, cloudberries, raspberries, cranberries and arctic brambles. Also important are wild strawberries, bog whortleberries, mountain crowberries, sea-buckthorn berries and rowanberries, among others.
Most of us recognize bilberries, lingonberries and raspberries. But what else is there that we could fill our buckets with?
Bog bilberry (juolukka)
This sister of bilberry is a forgotten superfood. The flavor of bog bilberry is quite mild but nevertheless it’s a nutrient dense berry. Bog bilberry contains more vitamin C than bilberry and contains greater amounts of some minerals than lingonberry. The bog bilberry is rich in natural blue anthocyanin pigments as well as in flavonoids such as quercetin and myricetin.
It can be used in the same way and with bilberries in juices, jams, pies, porridges and smoothies.
The berry of this evergreen shrub has a somewhat acrid taste and is generally used for making pies, wine, jams, jellies and liqueurs. It can grow in very poor soil conditions and it can be harvested from the end of July until the first snow. The crowberries are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants as are many of the other berries.
Rowanberries are small orange-red fruits of the rowan tree that are filled with vitamin C (98mg/100g), pectin and carotene. They are edible, but very tart in flavour. It’s best to pick rowanberries very late in the autumn, preferably not until they have been frostbitten. Freezing causes the bitter-tart berries to turn sweeter, and more suitable for eating. The berries can be used to make purees and juices, or they can be dehydrated and ground into powder to be mixed in porridges or bread doughs.
Helsinki Wildfoods’ berries
For those who don’t have the opportunity or time to go forage or preserve berries for themselves, Helsinki Wildfoods’ offers berry products that work also as supplementary sources of fibre. Our Finnish berry products can be added to smoothies, porridges or puddings. They also give a beautiful colour and texture while enhancing the nutritional content of cakes and desserts.
Blueberry Crush with Birch Sugar, Lingonberry Birch Sugar and Chokeberry Crush with Birch Sugar contain also xylitol, is made ecologically from the side flow of birch wood industry. Xylitol has a minty and fresh flavour, it’s sugar free and it abolishes the negative dental effects of a meal when consumed after it. Birch Sugar has 40% less calories than traditional sugar, raises blood sugar slowly and is also heat tolerant making it suitable for baking as a replacement for traditional white sugar. Currently, we are also developing a new product Wild Berry Bowl: an easy-to-use just add product. Mixed with yoghurt, cream or milk you can make smoothie bowls or use it as is in different kinds of dessert and snacks.
Photos: Pauliina Toivanen, Anna Nyman, Aino Huotari