According to studies, plants growing in the northern latitudes are especially rich in health-beneficial ingredients. The long harsh winters and endless sunlight hours during the summer months transforms these plants into true Nordic superfoods.
Did you know that Finland is actually covered up to 75 % by forest. The unpolluted clean air makes the Finnish forest a thriving growing ground for wild berries, herbs and mushrooms. There are 50 different species of berries in the Finnish forests. And although Finns are eager berry pickers, we still only manage to pick 10 % of the yearly crop.
Berries are superfood as they are naturally packed with vitamins, flavonoids, minerals and dietary fibre.
Vitamin C is the best-known antioxidant in berries. It protects the body from harmful oxidation, prevents tiredness and improves absorption of calcium and iron.
Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen, supports material of the cells and basically helps your skin looking the best it can.
Adding mushrooms to your diet is also a great way to get more fibre and vitamins. Mushrooms provide you with vitamins B and D which also make them a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Wild berries are also a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which works as an antioxidant in your system and protects cells from the harmful effects of free radicals which are generated in the metabolism. Vitamin E is also crucial in your diet for maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.
Vitamin K can also be found in berries. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin which improves the normal coagulation of blood and helps maintain healthy bones. Another important vitamin in berries is vitamin A. This vitamin helps to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and thus helps reduce the signs of wrinkles and fine lines.
Aside from vitamins, berries and mushrooms also contain minerals and trace elements like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and manganese.
So, there is really no reason why we should not include them in our everyday diet.
Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus)
Cranberries are found growing wild in the Finnish swamps. The berries are harvested in Autumn and the best harvest usually comes after the first frost. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C, dietary fibre and the essential dietary mineral, manganese as well as organic acids (citric acid, benzoic acid and chlorogenic acid) and flavonoids. They are valued for their use as an antioxidant and thus have a positive effect on the digestive system. Many are familiar with cranberry juice, but dried cranberries have the same distinct sweet and sour taste.
The berries are also very low in calories which is why they are great for detoxing and weight loss. Eating Cranberries may also lower bad cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The health effects of cranberries have been known for a long time!
Rose-Hip (Rosa canina)
Rose hips are usually red-orange, though darker varieties can also be found. Rose hips usually grow after the petals have bloomed and started falling off, which is usually in August to September. The rose hip is packed with vitamin C which is vital in collagen production . Furthermore the red-orange colour in the Rose hip is known as beta carotene and beta carotene is known for promoting good skin and eye health. The pure nordic rose-hip berry is a cultivated berry.
Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Blueberries grow wild in the forest, usually in pine forests on small shrubs that are close to the ground. They can be picked from July through September. They have a deep blue colour and once you’ve eaten them it will not go unnoticed as they tend to colour your mouth, but don’t worry it’s not permanent. The taste is sweet and perfectly acidy at the same time. Blueberries are high in antioxidants that may help protect the skin from damage and promote skin healing. The antioxidants in blueberries also help in muscle recovery after exercise.
Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
Cloudberries, also referred to as “Arctic gold” is one of the rarest, and most sought after berries in the world. They are a delicacy and during some seasons the demand exceeds the supply bringing the price sky high. They look similar to raspberries, but with a more yellowish/orangish colour. Cloudberries grow in the wild in the north of Finland, Sweden and Norway. They can be found in the wild semi-natural swamps. The season to pick Cloudberries is from July to the end of August. The taste is slightly sweet, yet sour at the same time. Apart from containing vitamin C, cloudberries are also rich in Vitamin E, a powerful Antioxidant that protects the skin’s collagen from harmful free radicals. Helping your skin stay moist and healthy.
Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
Lingonberries are quite similar to cranberries and can be found growing wild in the pine forests in Finland. The berries are harvested from the end of August until the end of September. Lingonberries taste sour and bitter, but also sweet. They have a high fibre content which is beneficial for a healthy digestion. Lingonberries also have a high ratio of kalium compared to natrium which is why they are favourable in the diet for people with high blood pressure. Because of their high benzoic acid level, lingonberries are helpful in maintaining a healthy pH-balance in the body.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
The sea buckthorn berries are rich in dietary fibre and vitamins, as well as potassium, copper and manganese. They contain the same amount of vitamin C as ten oranges! The sea buckthorn seeds contain omega-fatty acids also known as the main ingredient in the very healthy sea buckthorn oil which is great for maintaining elasticity in the skin. The berries’ high vitamin C content also helps the body to produce collagen which is what we need to keep the skin looking firm and glowing. The fresh Sea buckthorn berries have a very original taste that can be very sour, fruity as well as slightly sweet. The Sea buckthorn berry is picked in Autumn. Sea buckthorn can easily be called a super berry as it contains multiple times more energy than any other berry!
Black currant (Ribes nigrum)
Black currants contain many vitamins with the most significant being vitamin C. In fact, blackcurrants carry four times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, and double the amount of antioxidants as blueberries. The benefits of vitamin C are many. The body uses vitamin C to metabolise protein and form collagen, which is essential for skin care and anti-aging. In addition they also contain anthocyanins which can give your immune system a boost. Black currants have a strong and piquant taste. They are harvested mid summer. The pure nordic black currant berry is not a wild berry. It is cultivated in Finland using only organic methods.
Birch Leaves (Petula Pendula)
The birch is the national tree of Finland. It is strong, adaptable and beautiful. The leaves, bark, and buds of the tree are used to make medicine. The intoxicatingly fragrant leaves are suitable for tea, as seasoning, in a relaxing foot bath or as scent in the sauna water. Birch leaves are rich in vitamin C, vitamins B2 and B3, phenols and nourishing oils. The leaves are also both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and therefore known for its medicinal use. Birch leaf is a mild herb, but it is only recommended for oral use. Please note that Birch leaf is not recommended for internal use by diabetics because of the potential for rapid blood sugar reduction.
Spruce Shoot Powder (Picea abies)
The young shoots of a spruce tree are called spruce shoots. The best time to collect spruce buds is when they are still pale, soft and about 2-3 centimetres in size. They can be collected in May-June. They have a crisp and fresh taste and the wonderful aroma makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the Finnish forest. It is also very nutrient-dense and is one of the top Finnish superfoods. It is rich in minerals, vitamins A and C and antioxidants. The use of spruce has been known for thousands of years. In the past, eating spruce shoots prevented vitamin C deficiency.
Rose Root (Rhodiola rosea)
Rose Root is a very invigorating and refreshing northern herb. It is known as the ginseng of the North. According to legend, the Vikings used rose root to increase strength and endurance on their war campaigns. Rose root is an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that may help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue and overall well being. Adaptogens bring your body back to a steady balance by managing both physical and mental stressors.
Rose Root has a mild taste, but a strong aroma. Like almost any herb, rose root should be used seasonally. With continued long-term use, its effects are likely to become diluted or the body becomes immune to the stimulant effect. As with any food, continued long-term use can trigger an allergy to the product. Therefore it is always a good idea to rotate herbs throughout the year.
Angelica (Angelica Archangelica)
The botanical name Angelica archangelica comes from the word angel. The name refers to an angel who, according to legend, appeared before a monk in a dream revealing to him that the plant could cure the plague. The plant grows wild in the northern parts of the world.
The root, seed, leaf, and fruit have been used historically in Nordic folk medicine. Angelica may ease heartburn, upset stomach, loss of appetite and sleep problems. The herb can be brewed into a tea or used to flavour fish and egg dishes.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat eczema, arthritis, gout and anemia. Its botanical name, Urtica dioica, comes from the Latin word uro, which means “to burn”,
because its leaves can cause a temporary burning sensation upon contact. However, once it is dried, freeze-dried or cooked, nettle can be safely consumed.
Nettle is a real superfood as it is packed with Vitamins C, A and K as well as several B vitamins. It also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Nettle also contains essential amino acids, which are vital to your body to build proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters. Nettle is a natural diuretic
which means it may help your body shed excess salt and water.
Nettle powder is great in green smoothies, in soups, stews and in pancake batter. It has a spinach-like flavour. As with any of the wild herbs, speak to your doctor before consuming nettle if you are taking prescription medication or pregnant.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows primarily on birch trees in cold climates. It has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. With an appearance similar to pieces of burnt wood it is packed with antioxidants. The Chaga pieces should be boiled in water to make tea. The taste of chaga tea is fairly mild hence the strong coffee like colour, with a slight nutty flavour. Many studies have been made about the anti-inflammatory effects of Chaga. As with any of the wild superfood, speak to your doctor before consuming Chaga if you are taking prescription medication or pregnant.
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius)
The forest gold as it is mostly known. Chanterelles grow wild in the forest and usually in the same spot year after year. The best growing spots are usually a well guarded secret. There is a story of a Finnish lady who broke her leg while mushroom picking and rather than call for help and reveal “her” chanterelle spot she crawled out of the forest and first then called for help. And who can blame her chanterelles have a buttery flavour that makes your tongue water. It is a much loved culinary mushroom. Its buttery flavour makes the tongue water. It goes well with pretty much any dish; meat, fish or vegetable dishes. Or just plainly fried in butter on a crispy piece of toast. Chanterelles are low in calories and contain vitamins D, A, E and C. As well as antioxidants, minerals and fibre. The Chanterelle season in Finland starts at the end of June and lasts all the way until late Autumn.
Funnel Chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis)
The Funnel Chanterelle is a very popular mushroom in Scandinavia. Perfect for pastas, risottos, sauces, soups and pies. The mushroom is excellent when dried as it keeps its delicious taste and texture. Just like the yellow Chanterelle mushroom, Funnel Chanterelles are also low in calories and contain vitamins D, A, E and C. As well as antioxidants, minerals and fibre. They start appearing in the Autumn, and are usually hidden under the fallen leaves and are therefore quite hard to spot, but once you find one you usually find more.
Oats (Avena sativa)
Finnish oats grown under the midnight sun. Finnish oats are world class because of the optimal growing conditions. The cold Finnish winters and long light summers male them a pure and healthy choice for you. The northern conditions make the Finnish oats not only purer, but also paler and larger. Oats are naturally gluten free.
The Art of drying
Drying food as a form of preservation has been used for centuries. And it is genius!
It preserves the vitamins, intensifies the taste and gives the product a longer shelf life.
The pure nordic berries, herbs and mushrooms are air dried or freeze dried depending on a few factors (thickness of skin, amount of seed etc..).
All water is removed from the raw material by utilising an ultra-cold temperature below -50C. At this low temperature, water is converted directly from ice to water vapour.
This method is also known as sublimation.
Freeze drying can be compared to drying sheets outside in the freezing cold, as it used to be done in the past. In freezing temperatures, moisture evaporates from the sheets and they dry out. Freeze-drying removes water from the raw material, which is heavy making the raw material very light.
Even though -50 C frost sounds harsh. Freeze drying is a very gentle drying method that preserves the nutrients, aroma, colour and smell of the raw material.
Freeze drying berries take between 2-3 days depending on the berry.
Traditional air drying also removes water, but by using gentle heat. The heat is kept below 40 degrees Celsius to preserve nutrients and vitamins. Air drying takes 5-7 days depending on the raw material.