Everyman’s right, and living off of the forest
Finnish forests are teeming with berries and mushrooms for picking and game for hunting. The numerous lakes and rivers are rife with fish. In certain parts of the country it is even possible to live off of these ‘free’ products of the land.
Finns pick around 30 million kilograms of wild berries each year. However, this is only about 3 to 10% of the total annual wild berry crop, which is estimated to around 500 to 1000 million kilograms. The most common berries are the lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), blueberry/bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos/microcarpum), blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) and loganberry (Rubus loganobaccus). Most of the berries are left unpicked in the forest and are eaten by animals.
This short guide-leaflet gives an introduction to picking berries in Finland, as well as pointing the do’s and don’ts of berry picking.
Finnish forests not only produce an abundant range of berries but also around 7600 different mushroom species can be found. The most common mushrooms are chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), autumn chanterelles (Cantharellus tubaeformis) and ceps (Boletus edulis). Mushrooms are picked mostly during the autumn and either used directly to prepare fresh meals or dried and stored for use in cooking throughout winter.
In addition to berries and mushrooms also many animals roam the Finnish wilds. These include among others the only species of poisonous snake, the adder or viper (Vipera berus; kyy in Finnish). Around 1500 brown bears (Ursus arctus) live in Finnish forests but it is highly unlikely to run into one in the forests around Vierumäki. They are very shy animals and prefer to live in secluded areas of the forest with very little contact to humans. The chance is higher to observe elks (Alces alces) walking over the fields surrounding Vierumäki in the early mornings or during dusk. Encounters with squirrels, rabbits, hares, smaller rodents and birds are much more frequent.
Finnish flora and fauna has always influenced Finnish writers, poets, painters, musicians, artists, and jewelers. Probably the best known example of Finnish poetry outside of Finland is the national epos, Kalevala, a compilation of Finnish oral folklore and mythology. Artists working for Marimekko, Pentik, Arabia, Finlayson and Iittala have used Finnish flowers and forest as an inspiration for their designs and many jewelry pieces by Kalevala Koru are based on flower petals, Finnish countryside and winter themes.
In Finland, as well as in the other Nordic countries, there is a peculiar legal right that is called the “everyman’s right” (Jokamiehenoikeus in Finnish).
This legal right was developed from an unwritten code of practice into a fundamental legal right for not only the Finns themselves but also to people of all nationalities visiting Finland. The everyman’s right gives a person the right to walk, cycle, ski, hike and ride freely through the Finnish countryside. Damaging, destruction, or disturbance of others and the environment are not permitted. Access or crossing over private property, cultivated fields, pastures, gardens and privately owned beaches and lake-side properties is not permitted. This includes making fire, digging or building on private property. Also protected areas are exempted from the everyman’s right.
But the everyman’s right grants not only the right to freely roam through the countryside as it also allows a person to pick unprotected berries, mushrooms, and flowers as well as to fish with a rod and a line and in winter through a hole in the ice. Fishing permissions, however, do need to be purchased from an official when using a reel and a lure, fly fishing, using nets, or fish traps or fishing for cray fish.
Hunting is not included in the everyman’s right and a hunting permission has to be applied for. Each game species is hunted during a different hunting season, the season and the aerial extend has to be strictly adhered to.