Living off the FinLand

How do most of you stock your fridge? Local farmers markets? Big grocery stores? Home gardens? Maybe a blend of all three. The Finnish people get most of their meat and produce from their forests, seas and over 180,000 lakes. Mother Nature is very generous in this northern country.

Cloud Berry Field in Kemijärvi, Finland

Cloud Berry Field in Kemijärvi, Finland

Strawberry Dessert in Lapland, Finland

Take a walk in Finland’s lush Boreal forest and stop anywhere for a picnic, but forget the basket. The forest floors are carpeted in 37 edible types of berries. Sixteen of these are picked for consumption, blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, currants, among many others. Finland’s forests produce over 450 million kilos of berries per year, supplying the world with natural “superfoods.” The Finns use these natural vitamins at nearly every meal cooked, baked, blended, or frozen. The berries seem to be considerate of one another and take turns ripening throughout the season, so there’s never a bad time to go foraging. Anyone has the right to pick the fruits of nature on public and even private property. It’s not uncommon to find cars pulled over along the road and families gathering wild berries on someone else’s property, as long as it’s not their home garden it’s fair game. The only restrictions are within the boundaries of national parks. Nothing can be added or removed from the forest in these areas.

Finland is also a great place for the eco-friendly omnivore. Driving throughout Northern Finland and you’ll notice there aren’t any cattle farms. Instead you may often be sharing the highway with roaming reindeer.

Reindeer in Lapland

The reindeer are free to wander the forests, called “Husbandry Area” and feed off the lands not bound by traditional fences. Every single reindeer is owned by one of the country’s 800 reindeer herders, babies go to the owner of the mother Reindeer.

Baby Reindeer in Salla, Finland

Each autumn all 200,000 reindeer are gathered by the Reindeer Herders’ Association from the forests to fenced areas called “holding pens” where they are counted, tagged, and medically treaded if needed. The association is funded through the state budget of Lapland, Finland. At the “Autumn round-ups” specific reindeer are selected to supply the country with quality organic lean meat for the next year. The remaining reindeer are released to roam the lands for another year until they are collected again. The balance between meat and sustainability is very important to the Reindeer herders. Too many reindeer and the lands will be stripped of their food source and many reindeer would starve during the winter. Too few reindeer and the other predators in the land such as bears, wolves, lynx, and wolverines would not have a sustainable food source. Reindeers are very important to the Lapland communities as every part of the animal is used for food, crafts, clothing, and tools. Nothing goes to waste. Eat on omnivores, just not too much.

Yes, Mother Nature is very giving in Finland but the true beauty is in the Finnish people who take only what they need and not a berry more.

Siya trying on a set of reindeer antlers

Wait, before you go anywhere, be sure to watch our Finland daily vlog and food porn series.

Have you been to Finland?

What were your impressions of the country?

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