Forest is a great source for many things: Peace of mind, health, organic herbs, berries and mushrooms.. to name a few. My mission – and passion – is to share knowledge about the tradition of Finnish berry and mushroom picking to Finns and immigrants living in Finland, as well as tourists who are visiting Finland and want to experience the unique atmosphere of the pure nature Finland offers.
I was born in Helsinki and spend time in the summers at my grandmother’s place in Multia, in Central Finland. My grandmother had her own garden where she grew strawberries, black and red currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, vegetables and potatoes. My father, uncles and aunts would come by to help with the potato field every summer. My grandmother exposed me to picking blueberries, lingonberries and cloud berries. You could never leave her place without having a box of berries to go, “for vitamin C”. My father was enthusiastic about mushroom picking and I was learning with him different kinds of mushroom. Later, I relocated from Helsinki to the country side with my mother and she also had a garden with currants, wild raspberry and apple trees. Every Autumn she would make juice from currants and apples and those would last throughout the winter. I admit, that picking currants wasn’t my favorite task at the time, but I loved baking raspberry and apple pies, collecting the fresh ingredients from our garden. So I had exposure to organic treats from early childhood.
When I was studying and had already moved back to urban area, I rented a lot from the city and grew veggies such as peas, onions, herbs, carrots, beetroot etc. I still went to the forest to pick berries and mushrooms for the winter time. At that point of time, it was more about making most of the little money that I had, than being enthusiastic about it. Later I moved back to Helsinki, and also lived abroad for time. I enjoyed city life, and for a while I forgot about the nature, getting my berries and veggies from open air markets at summertime and enjoying the walks in the city. A few years ago I moved again, this time from downtown Helsinki to suburb of Espoo. I made a mushroom picking excursion to the Central park (which in Espoo and Helsinki is a forest with hiking trails) and I was hooked immediately again. – How could I have not done this for such a long time?! I was thinking. I was going through particularly stressing time at work (working for global projects in a publicly listed company) and hiking in the forest was a perfect balance to that. It energized me, it took my mind of work, and gave me deep sense of belonging to the chain of generations living in Finland before me. Not to mention the joyful feeling of finding mushrooms and berries, and coming home with basket that was heavy of the treats that I had found. The feeling of stretching oneself out on the sofa after a few hours hike in the forest, with a cup of tea on other hand and delicious slice of mushroom pie on the other. Life was good!
Getting enthusiastic about the forest again also changed my point of view towards the season changes. All of a sudden rain during summertime wasn’t bad at all, because it promised better harvest in the Autumn time. Autumn changed from being the melancholic end of summertime, to the most anticipated season of the year. I do like the bright and warm summer evenings, but I admit enjoying Spring and Autumn time more when nature is full of colors, different shades of green, yellow, orange, brown etc.
I studied to become commercial mushroom adviser (Kauppasienineuvoja) and started up Lumottu Metsä (Enchanted Forest). For those of you who are not familiar with the mushroom adviser concept, let me open it up briefly: In Finland grocery shops and restaurants sell mushrooms and mushroom products, and mushrooms are also exported e.g. to Italy. As Finland has not only the delicious edible mushroom, but also poisonous (and sometimes these two kinds resemble each other), it’s important that shops and restaurants can rely on getting exactly the mushrooms what they want to buy for resell and nothing else. Mushroom advisers train commercial mushroom pickers to identify the mushrooms, so that they can be safely provided to the commercial use.
It brings me great joy to share the knowledge about the mushrooms and see the excitement what you get, when you learn to spot the mushrooms from the ground and identify them. Important part of learning is also how to clean and prepare the mushroom; which ones to fry, freeze or dry and which are best eaten fresh. I hope to see you someday joining the courses with Lumottu Metsä! Until then, enjoy my blog and of course the forests.. I promise that a visit to forest (any time of the year) will be worth it, even just for the fresh air and exercise.