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Foraging, a Favourite Finnish Past time

We love exploring Finnish foraging traditions here in Australia

Foraging, the age-old practice of gathering wild plants, mushrooms, and berries from the natural environment, has deep roots in the cultural fabric of the Nordic countries. These are nations that have vast forests, pristine lakes, and an abundance of flora and fauna, making them ideal for foragers seeking to connect with nature and harvest its bounty.

What is the Cultural Significance of Foraging?

In Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia foraging is more than just a means of gathering food

—it is deeply intertwined with cultural identity and heritage. For centuries, indigenous peoples such as the Sámi have relied on foraging as a vital part of their subsistence lifestyle, harvesting wild plants, mushrooms, and berries to sustain themselves through the harsh Nordic winters. These traditions have been passed down through generations, fostering a profound connection to the land and a deep respect for its resources.

For many people in these countries, foraging is not just a practical skill but also a cherished pastime. Every summer, families venture into the forests to pick berries such as lingonberries, blueberries, and cloudberries, enjoying the tranquility of nature and the satisfaction of harvesting their own food.

Similarly, mushroom foraging is a beloved autumn activity, with enthusiasts scouring the forest floor for prized species like chanterelles and porcini. These outings also serve for people to come together to share knowledge, stories, and culinary traditions passed down through the ages.

What are the Legalities of Foraging in the Nordic countries?

Each of the countries have laws that allows anyone living in or visiting the countries the freedom to roam the countryside, forage, fish with a line and rod, and enjoy the recreational use of natural areas – respectfully, of course. In Finland this is known as “The Everyman's Rights,” or Jokaisenoikeudet. In Sweden this is known as 'The Right of Public Access", or Allemansrätten.

My Experience Foraging in Finland

I love that my journey with Finnish Lapphunds has included being able to learn about and immerse myself in Finnish culture. During my 12 years in the breed I have visited Finland countless times, and before my son was born I was able to spend 3-6 weeks there each time, living a Finnish life.

One of my most memorable trips was in the Finnish Summer of 2018. I had just spent time in Russia, and had purchased 3 Yakutian Laika dogs, to bring back to Australia to start the breed here (a story for another time!)

I brought the 3 dogs across to Finland first,

and I stayed with them at a friends Summer cottage for a month. It was out of necessity while the dogs were undergoing veterinary testing that took an extended amount of time (again a story for another time!) but I made the most of my month, living by myself, with my three dogs, in the middle of a Finnish forest.

It is customary for Finns to have a 'Summer Cottage', either their own, or within their extended family. It's usually a small, basic house, that is situated on a large area of land in the countryside, among forest and often near lakes. Finns will take time out during the year to spend time at their families Summer Cottage. Where they'll hike through the forests, forage for berries,

fish, and possibly hunt Moose or other animals. And of course there is always a sauna! Spending time at the Summer Cottage is a treasured past time, immersed in nature.

As the Summer cottage experience is about being back to basics with a focus on

nature, the cottages are very simplistic, joyfully so. Where I stayed, there was no running water, I acquired my water from a well near the house, which I used for drinking, bathing and washing my clothes. There was a composting toilet, I was lucky there was electricity, but there was barely any phone/internet reception. It was bliss! Each day I would take the dogs for a walk through the forest and I would pick berries, for myself and to contribute to my friends frozen stored supplies- which would last her family until the following Summer. It was simply amazing that in 20 minutes, I could pick a huge containers worth of fresh blueberries, from the forest floor.

Needless to say, I almost turned into a

blueberry myself that Summer due to eating so many! What a gift Finnish nature provides!

My friends parents came to fetch me twice a week so I could shower and sauna at their nearby house. With them being elderly and not speaking a word of English, and me speaking 5 words of Finnish, that was an interesting experience, but we made it work!

I was so immensely grateful to my friend for allowing me to use her families Summer Cottage, and experience this side of Finnish life.

The photos on the left are from my Summer of 2018.

On other trips to Finland over the years I've enjoyed the shoulder season of berry season, snacking on berries as walking dogs through forest areas- of which there is so many- Finland is the land of forest and lakes.

My Experience Foraging in Australia

In Australia foraging isn't quite as easy as in Finland, but there's still plenty to explore. My favourite foraging experience in Australia, is foraging for Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms each Autumn. This European species of mushroom was introduced to Australia by way of its fungi being attached to the roots of pinetrees of early tree imports. Some also say the Forestry Corporations introduced the mycelia of a number of beneficial mushrooms in the pines so to enable the trees to thrive and grow faster. In any case, it means the pineforests in regions that have the right climate and rainfall, have a supply of this edible mushroom each Autumn. No one farms this mushroom type in Australia, it is only found in nature, among pinetrees.

In NSW, Belanglo and Penrose State Forests in the Southern Highlands, and the pineforests in the Oberon area, are the common areas where they are found. In Victoria there are a number of prime locations, and in Tasmania they are mainly found in the North of the state. They aren't found in Queensland etc as the temperature is too warm.

2023 was the best pineforest mushroom season in many years, due to the heavy rainfall proceeding, and the warm Summer which led into an appropriately cool Autumn.

This years mushroom season has been slow to begin, and not such an abundance, due to the temperature being erratic this Autumn and in some areas such as Tasmania, it is too dry, there hasn't been enough rain.

With our property being in the Southern Highlands, and having a few pineforest areas, we are blessed with a small natural crop of Saffron Milk caps each year- which are currently making their appearance. To harvest, you use a knife to cut the mushroom at the stem. This allows the mushroom to grow back, which it will do a number of times if the conditions are right- before the temperatures drop for Winter. Their season is very short, usually only 6-8 weeks, so make the best of it while you can!

Saffron Milk Cap Taste

Saffrons have quite a meaty texture and a pleasant taste. We enjoy them fried, in oil or butter, in a risotto, in a pasta dish, or in a slow cooker. They can be preserved for use outside of their short season.

Last year there was such an abundant season that we picked and sold to local restaurants, who enjoyed featuring the local and very seasonal treat on their menu.

Our Special 'Mushroom' Litter

Last year during mushroom season we welcomed a special and colourful litter, which we affectionately named after wild mushroom species. From this litter we kept 'Saffron', seeing her colouring (brown domino), you can see why she received this name!

Saffron turned 1 year old this week, and enjoyed posing with her namesakes.

Cautionary Note

Many mushroom species found in nature are poisonous, only consume if you are well informed and are 1000% sure what the species is.

Happy foraging!


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