Wild-grown natural products are sought-after all over the world. According to the statistics of the UN and the FAO, the annual sales of these products are worth billions of euros.
Organic integrity is a growing trend. Allergies are increasing and the risks of chemicals are known.Consumers want safe raw materials both at the dining table and in the bathroom.
The primary asset of Finnish gifts of nature is purity. The soil contains very little control substances, and the purity of the air and the waters are top-class in the world.
“Wild food is familiar to us Finns. Food obtained from the forest and the lakes has been used since time immemorial,” notes Seija Kurunmäki, Director the ELO Foundation.
The ELO Foundation promotes Finnish food culture and food tourism. The foundation organises competitions in the catering sector and selects the Finnish team for the Bocuse d’Or cooking competitions. In recent years, the foundation has taken an interest in the exploitation of Finnish wild food. Finnish wild food means wild herbs and vegetables, fish, berries, mushroom and game.
Before coming to the ELO Foundation, Seija Kurunmäki worked in the food industry for a long time. She believes that food tourism in wild nature is a growing trend. Now people want to return to the sources of food.
“There’s a wild food boom in Finland which is supported by the Finns’ very strong connection to nature. Fetching food from the forest is a matter of course for Finns. Everyman’s right makes this possible. It allows everyone to camp out temporarily, a reasonable distance from homes, pick wild berries, mushrooms and fish with a rod and line. Foreign chefs have been surprised to see that herbs and berries can be picked almost everywhere,” Ms Kurunmäki says.
The ELO Foundation has organised training in wild food culture for professional cooks. The training is a world-first of its kind. Wild fish, mushrooms, berries and game are brought to the cooks’ chopping boards. Exceptional about the course is the fact that wild food is rarely served in restaurants.
According to Seija Kurunmäki, the appreciation of food obtained from Finnish nature and from nearby has grown. Wild food is a part of this new enthusiasm. A wild herb week is celebrated in Finland in the early summer. The first buds inspire many people to go wandering in the forests. Also seasonality, the four seasons, is appreciated more than before. In the spring one looks for herbs, in the summer berries and in the autumn mushrooms.
“Finland is teeming with wild food excursions for consumers. Plenty of cookbooks on wild food have been published in Finland, which has increased interest in picking mushrooms and berries. Top restaurants in Helsinki also serve wild food. It is quite common these days for the chefs of these restaurants to go and pick wild herbs in the morning.”
There are plenty of fish in Finland’s clean lakes and game in the forests.
“There are no hunting clubs in Finland that charge a fee. Hunting as a hobby has been easily accessible to ordinary citizens. Approximately 300,000 people per year acquire a hunting licence in Finland. It is a large number in proportion to the population.”
According to the Ruralia Institute of the University of Helsinki, Finland has the largest certified organic collection area in the world, about 11.6 million hectares. That is 30% of the total organic collection area of the world and nearly 38% of Finland’s land area. 99% of Lapland’s forests and swamps are included in organic certification.
According to the Finnish Organic Research Institute, it would be possible to certify as much as 87% of Finland’s entire land area as organic. Organic collection area means that no chemical fertilisers or control substances have been used there in the preceding three years. Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) and the Finnish Forest Centre supervise the verification of organic collection areas. It has now been possible to certify wild berries picked in an organic collection area as organic, so we can speak of organic wild berries. Over 3 million kilogrammes of organic bilberry and almost 90,000 kilogrammes of organic cloudberry were collected in 2014.
According to studies, the food safety of raw Finnish wild berries is also top-class. The consumption of these kinds of wild berries without heat treatment is globally exceptional. “Plenty of researched information has been gained recently, confirming that activity in the forest improves health and well-being. Being in the Finnish forest and picking gifts of nature is an excellent way of travelling,” notes Seija Kurunmäki.
The ELO Foundation or the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Food Culture gathers the makers, visionaries and resources of Finnish food culture at the same table. The foundation engages in diverse co-operation to boost the attractiveness of Finnish food culture. The most important forms of activity since the beginning in 2009 have been the international Bocuse d’Or Cooking World Championships and the national Chef of the Year and Waiter of the Year contests. www.elo-saatio.fi/en
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”Wild food is familiar to us Finns. Food obtained from the forest and the lakes has been used since time immemorial.”
According to the Finnish Organic Research Institute, it would be possible to certify as much as 87% of Finland’s entire land area as organic.
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