Friday, July 17, 2009

Mustikoita - Blueberries

Blueberries are now in season. Some may call them bilberries. At any rate, the berries of the Vaccinium myrtillus bush are now waiting out there in the forest for those who know where to find them.

An extremely recent addition to our family has made fishing and foraging out of the question for me, at least for the time being.

Luckily, on the way home from the post office, I passed by an old gentleman selling the berries that he had picked this morning. He was on a bench in the shade in Kirkkopuisto, a park quite close to our home.

Four euros for half a liter seemed pretty steep, but a liter was ten euros at the marketplace yesterday. The price will go down as the berry season progresses.

The old fellow selling berries was exercising his Jokamiehen oikeudet or Everyman's rights. Everyman's rights allow for free right of access to land and waterways and also give the right to harvest wild berries and mushrooms regardless of who owns the land. These rights also generally apply to foreign citizens. Income from selling berries that you have picked yourself is tax-free in Finland.

Everyman's right in brief (From Ministry of the Environment website)

Everyone may:

walk, ski or cycle freely in the countryside, except in gardens, in the immediate vicinity of people’s homes, and in fields and plantations which could easily be damaged
stay or set up camp temporarily in the countryside, a reasonable distance from homes
pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers, as long as they are not protected species
fish with a rod and line
row, sail or use a motorboat on waterways, with certain restrictions; swim or wash in inland waters and the sea
walk, ski and fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea

You may not:

disturb other people or damage property
disturb breeding birds, or their nests or young
disturb reindeer or game animals
cut down or damage living trees, or collect wood, moss or lichen on other people’s property
light open fires on other people’s property, except in an emergency
disturb the privacy of people’s homes, by camping too near them, or making too much noise, for example
leave litter
drive motor vehicles off road without the landowner’s permission
fish or hunt without the relevant permits


  1. That's fascinating. I remember harvesting blackberries near Ely with my dad as a kid and getting chased by a guy yelling at us (while holding a gun) for trespassing. In more recent history, the property I bought this Winter turns out to be one of the best producers of wild asparagus in my township. So, we had foragers trudging around in our ditches for most of the month of June. I considered putting a sign out there that said that I had personally peed on each asparagus plant. But mostly I just made sure I was the first person out there every day; it's funny how selfish I can be. I think it's cool that people there aren't so protective about their property. Although coupled with one of your earlier articles about the tradition of littering at rest stops, I have a feeling the picture is not always so rosy...?

  2. The littering phenomenon here is pretty hard to grasp. As I wrote before, the rest stops are disgusting. City parks, especially on the weekends tend to be littered with empty beer packaging and spent pizza boxes. Perhaps it has something to do with the parks and rest areas being public property ie lacking a private owner.

    You could always dig up the asparagus root clusters and move them farther onto your property. Are the ditches really yours or does the township own an easement?

    When it comes to asparagus, one can never be to selfish.

  3. You should live like place of my "groving home" was, well you would be unemployed tho.
    10m from backdoor to get blueberries. Some "puolukka" also and in 200m lot of "variksenmarja"
    Translator gives too many choises so i dont know english names of those berries.

    That everymans right law came about same time when landowning laws i think, its hard to even think that goverment would even dare to succest that what we have done since memory could be illegal. Well they tried it with booze :)

    We collected our needs for juices etc from woods and most for sell for some extra money. It was common to teens collect some for their own time to get some extra money. Buying place was only 5km away so easy to cycle to get your few markkas :) We also made trips to swamps to collect "hilla(lakka)" to even more money and berries.

    btw that "dont make fire" :D
    If you have your own wood or can collect dead wood we do a fire, just dont touch living wood. Atleast in north.

    Well we dont trust that so local politician who transferred old firewatch tover as "looking tower" atleast planned to transfer also firewood to use so no drunken had idea to chop out some trees :)
    Nice views but bad picture, im one to blame because i only point and click with my camera :)

    Trash i agree, im hope most of it is from teens who just need to rebel or other scum like one i and my friend threw in carbage bin after he littered. (yes we were drunk)

  4. I grew up calling puolukka "lowbush cranberry" but I think the more accepted term is "lingonberry".

    Variksenmarja is "crowberry".

  5. Yeah the ditches are public 'right of way' and of course anyone can be out there if they want. It just seems rude since it's so close to my house.
    I'll have to look into transplanting them. I bet some of them have huge root masses. I wonder what it is about ditches that makes them such good habitat for the 'wild' asparagus in this area?

  6. Once asparagus is established, it is pretty hard to get rid of. Especially along roadsides where there isn't much to disturb the root mass. Also, asparagus is originally from maritime areas where the soil has a high saline content. You can prep an asparagus bed with a extremely weak salt water solution to make it less hospitable for other plants. Maybe ditch asparagus in MN has something to do with the salting of roads in the winter...

  7. Maybe, but the places it is most prolific here are on dirt roads where no salt has been applied. I was thinking it might be because it is a loose well drained soil and more importantly, birds sit on the fences and poop the seeds there.