A veil of autumn colours has spread itself over Finland with its countless tones of yellows and reds, the night temperatures have fallen below zero and the first snowflakes have even arrived in the northernmost parts of Finland.
However, wild food enthusiasts need not fret, as there’s still plenty of edible goodness to be found. Many of our common wild herbs are still going strong, the mushroom season is in full bloom and there are plenty of berries waiting to be picked by berry lovers.
Gaze into your backyard
It’s still possible to get that almost permanent blue colour onto the fingertips that’s so familiar to blueberry lovers foraging the forests in the summertime. Actually, chokeberries have even deeper colour than blueberries, which also indicates that the berries contain more antioxidants than their blue sisters. Chokeberries are often found growing in urban areas and backyards, are still in full fruit and perfect for adding some extra kick and excitement into your home cooking.
The flavours in chokeberries tend to only intensify with freezing, so now is the perfect time for wild food enthusiasts to fill their freezers with nutrients for the winter. The best part about chokeberries is their easy availability even to city dwellers. They are also the busy berry lovers best friend as they’re easy to collect and one chokeberry bush can provide up to eight to ten kilos of berries. The berries are ripe and at their best when the leaves of the chokeberry bush turn a beautiful shade of dark red and the berries take on a shiny dark tone. All varieties of chokeberry are edible.
In addition to its ready availability, the chokeberry is a sometimes underestimated, surprising nutrient-bomb. Toivo Rautavaara, a functional plant researcher applauded the chokeberry already during the 1990’s. Rautavaara encouraged for example those suffering from high blood pressure and atherosclerosis to add chokeberry to their diets.
The chokeberry beats its rather well known antioxidant-rich competitor, the blueberry, easily in terms of antioxidant levels. These backyard superberries also contain an exceptionally high dose of iodine. Finns tend to suffer from a mild iodine deficiency, so enjoying some chokeberries may be beneficial for all of us. Because of its high iodine content, in Russia and Estonia, chokeberries are used to treat hyperthyroidism. Those who have visited Russia have perhaps come across their large chokeberry plantations where our neighbouring country grows the berry to make powders, juices, wines and dietary supplements.
The dark toned berried also contain a good amount of vitamins C, E and B as well as minerals such as manganese, copper and boron. Not only can the berries be enjoyed, but the leaves of the chokeberry bush can be used as well, for example as tea.
Ripe chokeberries tend to be sweet with a slight bitterness to them. In home cooking, the berries are especially suited for jams and jellies as they contain plenty of pectin. The berries are also perfect for cold pressed juices, sweetened with natural honey for example and why not try making some wine out of these backyard delicacies!
The underestimated superberry
One fine Sunday evening, Annika and I found ourselves wondering around the juicing factory in Mäntsälä. The friendly factory owners kindly shared their stories about entrepreneurship and the juicing business with us. They even let us try their mouth-watering juices. We shared our thoughts about chokeberries and we all strongly agreed that these super berries should be more appreciated and better used also in Finland. Our Helsinki Wildfoods team became so excited about chokeberries that we couldn’t help ourselves but add these berries to our product offerings.
Our chokeberry powder, delicious in flavour and packed with vitamins, nutrients and fibre is perfect with porridge, milkshakes, yoghurt or in desserts. However, the winter is coming and we need to make room for our upcoming just add products – Nettle Pesto, Wild Berry Bowl and Forest Salsa. We welcome you to come and fill your superfood and berry stashes for the winter today, at our Friends’ Sale: Chokeberry Powder only 5€/pouch, Birch Sap drinks 1€/bottle, Nettle Herb Oil 8€/bottle and much more.
Friends’ Sale @Culture Centre Sähinä, Heikkiläntie 10, 00210 Lauttasaari
16–18 shopping and nettle pesto tasting
18–19 mushroom lecture, biologist and mushroom advisor Anna Nyman
Source: Vuento, M. 2013. Marja-aronia – mahdollisuuksia ja haasteita. Opinnäytetyö 2013. Karelia-ammattikorkeakoulu.
Photos: Aino Huotari