Finnish forests are a real treasure chest for those who enjoy fresh and wild flavors. Mushroom picking is a popular hobby among the young and the old, and each autumn us Finns head out to the forest to hunt for the delicious fungi. The clean air, healthy soil and pure water also make an ideal environment for nutritious and pure mushrooms to grow.
The nutritious forest mushrooms are an excellent way to diversify your diet – not to mention to enjoy wonderful culinary experiences. Though we are perhaps the most accustomed to seeing mushrooms on our plates, a whole other story is functional mushrooms. The possibilities of functional mushrooms are currently a subject of great interest and constant research. Mushrooms have even entered the cosmetics industry which is another good example of how versatile ingredients mushrooms actually are.
The mushroom lifestyle is alive and well in Finland
When autumn arrives us Finns sharpen our mushroom knives and heat out to the forest to hunt nutritious wild foods. Like berry picking, mushroom picking is a favorite activity for Finns and a tradition to repeat each autumn.
Picking mushrooms is at the same time a soothing and exhilarating experience. Walking in the quiet forest, breathing the crisp autumn air and taking in all the beautiful autumn colors of the forest relaxes all senses and empties the mind. At the same the thrill of the search also appeals to something very primal. An essential part of the fun is the search itself and to just roam in the forest without the concern of time or taking note of the kilometers walked.
Finnish everyman's rights allow anyone to roam freely in the forests and to pick all the mushrooms and berries they desire, regardless of who owns the land. Many Finns have their own secret mushroom places and the knowledge of those often runs in the family. Picking mushrooms requires some knowledge of the species and accuracy in identifying them, as tens of poisonous species of mushrooms grow in Finland. Many people gain their mushroom knowledge from their families but mushrooms are also studied in schools, sometimes also by taking a field trip into local forests. Mushroom courses offered by local adult education centers are also popular.
Mushroom picking is often a family activity in Finland.
Almost 5500 different species of mushrooms grow in Finland, out of which 200 are edible. As much as 1,5–4 billion kilos of mushrooms grow in the forests each year but only 2–10 million kilos of those are picked. Luckily a part of the mushrooms picked are preserved and brought for sale for everyone regardless of their location.
Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious wild foods
Perhaps the most common way to use mushrooms is on our plates. Finnish forest mushrooms make a delicious – and not to mention nutritious – addition to risottos, pastas, pies – and even desserts! Mushrooms are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and they contain very little fat and carbohydrates.
Plenty of good edible mushrooms can be found in the Nordic forests, but the following quartet is perhaps the most common and beloved.
- Chanterelle: Chanterelle is an all-time favorite for mushroom hunters of all levels: it is quite easy to spot due to its golden yellow color and it is also delicious and versatile to use. Chanterelle contains very little energy but as much as 25 % of protein of its dry weight. Chanterelle is also a good source of vitamins C and D, selenium, carotene and fiber. Chanterelles can be enjoyed for example on top of bread and they make a delicious sauce which can be paired with various meats, such as pork.
- Funnel chanterelle: Funnel chanterelle is similar to chanterelle in many ways and it is almost as popular among foodies as its golden sister. Funnel chanterelle grows near fir trees in moist moss. Funnel chanterelle is an excellent mushroom for many kinds of cooking, particularly in soups, pies and stews.
- Black trumpet: Black trumpet is another fine mushroom which many Finns consider one of the best of our mushrooms. As the name suggests, the black trumpet resembles indeed a black trumpet. Black trumpet is excellent in soups, stews and also sweet desserts, if you are willing to try something a bit different. The black trumpet can be dried and preserved which makes its aromatic flavor intensify even further. It also makes an excellent spice when dried and ground.
- Porcini: The bulky, latte-colored porcini is a highly valued mushroom and the number one commercial mushroom in Finland. It is a nutritious mushroom which contains more protein, B vitamins and vitamin C than other mushrooms. Porcini has a mild and slightly nutty and sweet flavor which makes it very versatile to use. In addition to soups and stews, porcini can also be added to salads, pizzas and lasagnas.
Pizza the Finnish way: chanterelles, bacon and scallion.
Mushrooms can be preserved by drying and freezing which makes it possible to enjoy the fresh flavors of the forest all year round. Kaavi Porcini offers a selection of dried gourmet wild mushrooms. The mushrooms are handpicked from Finnish forests and packed in airtight jars to preserve the delicious flavors. The dried mushrooms are a wonderful addition to risottos, pastas, pies or omelets.
Beyond the nutritional benefits: functional mushrooms
Mushrooms can be used for other than culinary purposes as well. Mushrooms which have health benefits beyond their nutritional composition are called functional mushrooms. These have been used as a natural remedy in different cultures around the world throughout the ages. Modern research is only beginning to catch up with the possibilities of functional mushrooms, with studies breaking down the active compounds in mushrooms that support human health in various ways.
The functional mushrooms which can be found in Northern forests are chaga and reishi. Other functional mushrooms, such as cordyceps, lion’s mane, shiitake and maitake are also cultivated in the Finnish forests.
- Chaga grows on birch trees in the North. It has been used a lot particularly in the Northern and Slavic countries and Russia where the health benefits of chaga have been passed on from generations to generations. Chaga is a superior source of antioxidants which is why it is most commonly used to support the immune system.
- Reishi is known for its calming effects which is due to the triterpenes it contains. Reishi has been used to treat restlessness, insomnia and stress.
- Lion’s Mane is considered to be excellent brain food. It contains compounds (hericenones and erinacines) which studies have shown to benefit brain health. Therefore it is a good support when extra focus is required.
- Shiitake is an edible mushroom essential in East Asian cuisine. In addition to its culinary properties, it is also known to have functional effects. Shiitake is used to boost immunity, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels.
- Maitake is another mushroom with culinary and functional properties. It has a long tradition of medicinal use in Japan and China. Maitake contains plenty of beneficial compounds, such as beta glucan, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and it is used to support overall immunity.
Chaga mushroom resembles burned coal.
The easiest way to enjoy medicinal mushrooms is via well-absorbing mushroom extracts. The most effective products are made with a dual-extraction method; with water extraction and ethanol extraction. This ensures the utilization of both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds of the mushroom.
Kääpä Mushrooms offers a good selection of innovative and top quality functional mushroom extracts. All products are prepared from functional mushrooms cultivated and researched in their outdoor mushroom farm in the southeast of Finland.
Mushrooms are also used in cosmetics
The benefits of mushrooms have also begun to be utilized externally, as mushrooms have entered the cosmetic industry. The number one mushroom used in Nordic natural cosmetics products is the number one Nordic mushroom, chaga.
The antioxidant-rich chaga is an ideal ingredient in anti-age skincare products. Chaga also contains betulin which can also be found in birch sap and bark. Betulin efficiently reduces inflammation and stimulates the production of healthy cells. Therefore chaga is also used in products which focus on treating atopic skin, psoriasis, varicose veins, insect bites and small wounds.
Chaga can be found in the products of Supermood, Taiga Cosmetics and Pure=Beauty. Combined with other hydrating and anti-age ingredients, the chaga products rejuvenate and nourish especially dry, mature and tired skin. If you haven’t yet experienced what wonders chaga does to the skin, we recommend trying asap!
You can find forest mushroom products at Arctic Pure. See the selection!