Wild berries are Nordic superfoods.
Berry picking is one of the most popular recreational activities in forests. According to national surveys, over half of the Finnish adult population go berry picking. Wild berries can be picked by anyone, anywhere in Finland. Because of Finnish public access rights, known as the right to roam or Everyman’s Rights (Jokamiehenoikeudet), enjoying the outdoors is a right everyone has – whether by picking wild berries and mushrooms in forests or camping – no matter who owns the land. Residential areas, cultivated land and strictly protected nature reserves are, of course, no-go zones for foraging.
Finnish forest berries with major economic significance include the bilberry or European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), and cranberry (Vaccinum oxycoccos).
Finnish forest berries are real superfood. They are rich in nutrients, containing more vitamins and minerals than many fruits. Levels of polyphenols – phytochemicals with antioxidant properties – are generally high in forest berries. Due to their nutritional content and positive effects on health, people are advised to eat 100 grams of berries daily.
Bilberry is usually found in semi-fertile heath forests and in transition zones between peatlands and mineral soils while lingonberry grows on more dry mineral soils. Cloudberry and cranberry have adapted to grow on peatlands. Raspberry is a pioneer species in open areas and is commonly found in recently regenerated forest areas and roadsides.
In a good crop year, the value of harvested wild berries can reach more than EUR 100 million. While there are commercial berry picking operations, a major part of the berries picked goes straight to the freezers and dining tables of private households.
The season’s wild berry yield depends on the weather conditions during the previous and current summers, the snow cover during the previous winter and the success of pollination. When berries bloom in spring and early summer, they are most vulnerable to changes in weather conditions. Successful pollination can only take place when the weather is favourable.
Forest management affects the occurrence of wild berries, too. On a landscape level, the variation in age and structure of forest stands creates suitable habitats for different berry species.