Wild superfoods in Finland – Finnish flavours
In Saimaa and the Finnish Lakeland region, you can find many nutrient- and vitamin- rich natural food sources, often referred to as “superfoods.” Anyone can pick these wild-growing berries and mushrooms for themselves, locals and guests alike, and nothing tastes better than fresh mushroom sauces or hot blueberry pie.
The natural berries and fruits in Finland are relatively small compared to their cultivated cousins but much sweeter and packed with flavour, healthy vitamins and flavonoids (phytochemicals with strong antioxidant properties). We locals love to hunt for these delicious wild treasures, collect tasty mushrooms and herbs, and enjoy the rich biodiversity of the Finnish boreal forest.
We also invite our guests to do likewise! Come and revive the ancient collection of these Finnish superfoods themselves and use them in delicious meals.
Nature’s bounty – A special place in the north
Finland’s untouched nature and northern climate are the secrets behind the success of these wild-growing plants.
The low level of industrialization, sparse population and swathes of protected woodland allow the foods to grow naturally, giving them chance to build up wonderful flavours and nutrients. In Finland we have “Everyman’s Rights” which let you roam freely and collect wild foods to your heart’s content. This freedom makes it particularly easy to harvest the bounty of superfoods in Finland’s forests.
Finns will often use a comb-like picking tool when gathering berries to help ease their collection further and many would recommend it as an integral part of your gear – you never know when the desire for berries will take you!
First pick – Collecting Finnish berries and mushrooms
Superfoods in Finland are found mainly in woodland. The European blueberry or bilberry shrubs blanket the forest floor. They grow in huge abundance on low bushes just waiting for modern hunter-gatherers and contain fatty-acids such as omega 3 and 6, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B and C.
In the summertime, raspberries are heavenly sweet. Eaten raw as a snack or preserved as jam, these berries are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals.
Cowberries or lingonberries grow later in the summer season and grow in even greater profusion than Finland’s blueberries. Best suited to reindeer and cabbage dishes, they are packed with flavour along with natural preservatives, pectin and vitamin E. They preserve so well that they are also commonly eaten with the Finnish Christmas meal.
Cloudberries and cranberries both grow in Finland’s wetlands. Cloudberries in particular are rare and valuable, the “gold of the forest,” and probably the most unusual flavour for visitors when eaten raw. They are rich in vitamin C and trace elements and have a delicate flavour making it a perfect match for cheeses. They are famously tasty as a jam and its leaves have uses as a medicinal herb.
The air of Saimaa is also a paradise of fungi with the growing season running from about May to November. The diversity of species here is impressive although this also means that you should only pick mushrooms that you’re truly familiar with and can identify accurately. They are however rich in essential minerals, proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates and taste great in sauces, fried with butter or as an accompaniment to game dishes.