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Nature offers nature-goers experiences for all the senses. We are able to enjoy beautiful landscapes, intoxicating scents and amazing flavours. The forests are filled with edible plants. The advantage of wild herbs is that they can be collected early in the spring before the any cultivated harvest. Wild herbs are also a good addition to the summer diet. Berries and mushrooms mature towards the end of the summer and in the autumn. By preserving the yield, you can still enjoy it in the winter. Natural produce are the ultimate superfoods, they’re nutritious and tasty.
The Loppi nature routes from Iso-Melkutin to the Marskin Maja lodge meander among the lakes in dry pine-dominated heath forests, but there’s still an abundance of edible plants there as well. Berries take the centre stage: bilberries, lingonberries and bog bilberries are common. The most moist places, such as lakes shores and ditches, host various species, such as stone bramble and the incredibly fragrant meadowsweet. When picking wild herbs, knowledge of the species is important, as some wild plants are toxic. Digital aides are helpful here. Mobile applications are available to help with recognition. It’s safe to begin by getting to know species of wild herbs that are easily recognisable, such as the rosebay willowherb, dandelion or nettle. Did you know that stinging nettle was chosen as the ‘Wild Herb of 2018’? This plant leaves some stinging memories and doesn’t care for dry heaths but it can be found and collected in more eutrophic terrain. Drying or quickly parboiling the nettles tames the sting of the plant. Why not try making some nettle crisps? Nettles can be used in many ways outside the kitchen as well: nettle water is a great fertiliser and protectant for the garden. Nettle fibre was used for making fishing nets and textiles already in the Stone Age.
The Finnish everyman’s right provides us with various opportunities to enjoy nature. However, it’s good to remember that there are some restrictions when it comes to using wild plants. Picking mushrooms and berries, flowers and grass-like plants is allowed without permission. The land owner’s permission is required for the collection tree parts, such as spruce sprouts or birch and rowan leaves. No plants may be collected from nature conservation areas, such as national parks, even though picking mushrooms and berries is otherwise permitted.
The best time for collecting wild herbs is early summer, when the growths are still young and short. Only collect as many plants as you need. Do not clear an area of a plant so that some growth always remains. Plants should be used in a sustainable manner, and nature should not be exploited. If you collect ingredients for herbal drinks, the best weather is dry and fair. The weather is irrelevant, however, when you collect plants that are going to be used fresh. Collect your plants from an area that is not close to a highway. The plants should be processed as soon as possible after collection as they wilt quickly. Wild herbs can be easily preserved for winter use by drying or freezing.
Wild herbs can be used in many ways in cooking. Nettles give flavour to pancakes and bread rolls. Dandelion leaves make great pesto and the flowers are wonderful for jam. Young shoots of rosebay willowherb can be used like asparagus. It’s flowers are great in herbal drinks. Juniper berries have traditionally been used for game dishes. Smoothies can be made using berries. The tart wood-sorrel gives some unique flavour to sweet desserts.
Let’s enjoy what nature has to offer!
Stinging nettle crepes
1.5 dl dried and ground stinging nettles
5 dl milk
4 dl dark wheat flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
Mix the flour and 2 dl milk well. The add rest of the milk and other ingredients. Let the batter rest for about an hour before cooking. Cook small crepes in a crepe pan over high heat and serve with lingonberry jam.
200 g bilberries
1 small apple
5 dl sour milk or unflavoured yoghurt
½ dl oat bran
(2-3 tsp sugar or honey)
Whizz the ingredients in a liquidizer or with a stick blender until smooth