People in the Nordics love the forests. They love what’s in them. They love to pick it. And they (and you) may pick it anytime. What makes this possible is the famous Everyman’s Right.
But let’s go back a bit first. Finland is a country of vast forests and countless lakes and only sparsely populated. Nature here is pristine and so are the water and the air: last year, the World Health Organization crowned Finland as the world’s #1 when it comes to air quality. Add to this our Arctic climate and the effect of the famous midnight sun and you get a place where healthy berries, herbs and mushrooms are thriving in almost incomprehensible amounts. The Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE) estimates that in a good year, between 500 million and one billion kilograms of berries and 360 million kilograms of mushrooms grow in Finland’s forests. And here's the sustainable kicker: only a tiny fraction of this can be picked and consumed by people because it’s just too much.
Care to have some? Go pick it. And we mean it, literally. Thanks to the famous Everyman’s Right (Jokamiehenoikeudet, in Finnish), you are free to pick berries, mushrooms and herbs from the forests, private land included. But be aware: this does not include gardens, yards or fenced properties, it just means forests owned by private landowners.
Foraging for food in the forests is a popular pastime activity for both citizens and tourists alike. Every other Finn does this to some extent, many of which with burning passion. And for people visiting the country, going berry picking, hiking or camping (or all of them together) in one of the world’s most pristine environments is a cherished experience.
However, with rights and privileges come obligations. We all have to behave responsibly and keep in mind that we have to take care of the forests together to make sure it keeps thriving. Only then we can keep foraging every year for more. The rules are quite simple: you may not harm bushes and trees and only harvest their edible parts without destroying them. So you may pick berries, mushrooms and herbs but you may not uproot a blueberry bush and take it home with you. Felling trees for firewood or cutting branches is not allowed either and any fires you make must be small and kept under control. And of course, disturbing or hurting animals (except with strictly regulated hunting licenses) is forbidden. This sounds pretty great and easy, right?
Maybe the best part about all this is that these wonderful things grow just out there, year in, year out, without any human input. It's mass production by Mother Nature herself. Even if you pick them en masse for your personal enjoyment, it doesn't move the needle. Sustainability is guaranteed as long as you act according to the rules mentioned above.
For more details, see this handy guide to the Everyman’s Right by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.
Happy foraging to all of you!
Elina & Tim
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