Wild Food Gastronomy in Finland
Photographer: Kimmo Brandt
In Finland you can find edible, wild, naturally growing food everywhere, from national parks and to green public urban areas - even people's backyards. Wild food includes but is not limited to herbs, vegetables, fish, berries or mushrooms. Foraging for berries and mushrooms is deeply rooted in Finnish culture. A central aspect of this culture is 'everyman's right', which refers to the right of everyone in Finland to enjoy outdoor pursuits - including nature's nutritious yields - regardless of who owns or occupies a given area. Eating freshly-picked wild blueberries from a forest is a unique experience in itself!
Food tourism and visits to wild nature inspire people, both in Finland and around the world. There are already a few restaurants in Finland that serve dishes and event entire menus that are prepared using only ingredients sourced from nearby forests, which can be treasure troves of nutritional gems, providing unique flavors from wild vegetables and herbs such as nettles, dandelions, horseradish, clovers, birch leaves and pine or spruce cones.
Chef Jyrki Tsutsunen is one of the leading advocates of wild food in Finland. Tsutsunen, who prefers not to call himself a chef, employs a rather unconventional approach to food culture. He prioritizes and promotes responsibility and ecology in modern gastronomy. For years, Tsutsunen worked as a chef in the kitchen of the St. Petersburg Consulate, and has had a strong influence on Helsinki's fine dining scene. Today, Tsutsunen works as a freelancer, organizing unique and memorable culinary and cultural events. In addition to tasting experiences, Tsutsunen wants to bring other senses, memories and emotional states to the table.
Nearly all the food he serves and prepares for the events is made of ingredients he collected himself from nature. Tsutsunen's imagination is limitless. In his cuisine, he might use - in addition to more common wild herbs - like pine cones, lichens and ants, to name only a few. To complement the culinary experience, the events also feature live music. Tsutsunen has toured Europe on two different occasions. The 'Spirit of the Forest' event tour with DJ Bunuel from 2017 to 2019 brought him to Germany (Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Mannheim) but also to Milan, Madrid or Bern.
His current dining event is titled 'Bones, Trees, Spoons' and presented together with percussionist Tatu Roenkkoe, whose music is produced with instruments such as pots, pans and birch whisks that are typically used in saunas. It was scheduled to tour around Europe in summer 2020, proclaiming the Finnish wild food, but due to the pandemic, events were held only in Finland, but after the winter, a new year and new opportunities await.