Where the wild things are: foraging in Finland with Chef Sami Tallberg [classic article]

I attended a seminar several years ago, learning that we as a people are not eating enough wild foods. Wild foods have vitamins and fiber that cultivated food often does not. Also, there’s a range of flavors, such as bitter, sour, pungent, that disappear when food is not picked in the wild. Then, a couple of years ago, restaurants — especially in the Nordic countries — started adding exciting elements to their menus with foraged foods.

I was just in Helsinki, where chef and author Sami Tallberg gave me a lesson in foraging for Finnish food. He conducts classes, cooks, caters, writes . . . he’s the expert in Finland. We roamed around a hilly forest for wild food! Then, the journeyman chef turned at least some of the findings into lunch in the cellar of a restaurant called Grotesk. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

berries: to pick or not?

There are lots of berries in Finland, including raspberries, a type of blueberries, even “Arctic cloudberries”. However, there are lots of unknown entities and Chef Tallberg would not let us pick these.

some of my foragings

In this little paper sack, I stuck sorrel, wood sorrel, dandelions on their second growth, as well as edible nasturnium. They were ostensibly for a salad, provide I was correct in my picking.

the suburbs!

Just across the water from this city park in Helsinki are the suburbs. It’s weird to think the “burbs” are so close to where the wild foods are.

 

the beauty of Helsinki

There are a few homes neighboring this park in Helsinki. As with all such homes, they have the eternal promise that their surroundings will always be serene: they’re quite luxe.

 

antiques in the cellar

Just like you might find in your grandmother’s cellar, there are all kinds of cool antiques in the cellar of Grotesk in Helsinki. It really adds a warm, homey touch.

 

Chef Tallberg

Chef Tallberg clearly likes to work with a little bit of distance as a veil of privacy when he makes his creations. Even if you forage the food, you never really know what might be included!

 

my finding!

Chef Tallberg clearly likes to work with a little bit of distance as a veil of privacy when he makes his creations. Even if you forage the food, you never really know what might be included!

 

wild salad

I learned from Chef Tallberg that wild greens, once kept, last in the fridge up to 10 days. This salad included yarrow, dandelion, Brussels sprouts, sheep’s milk cheese, vinaigrette with pine needles.

 

Pike perch with chanterelles

We didn’t really find any chanterelles on this foraging expedition, but Chef Tallberg had some on hand, to create a dish with pike perch in a 10 minutes salt brine, white wine, butter browned, and also, parsnips.

 

dessert

This was a little fruit gelee dessert incorporating edible flowers that we found in the forest. This was a perfectly light dessert for lunchtime and I’m sure, figure-friendly!

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