Not everybody thinks about it, but there is a harvest in the forest apart from the forest itself – berries and mushrooms. As we here in Sweden have our right of public access, meaning that anyone can go every forest to pick berries and mushrooms, this has in some parts of the country become an industry.
Harvest in the forest
My parents used to pick mushrooms in our forest. They were the experts, I guess. Anyway, no one eating what they had picked died or turned ill. A good rule that my dad repeatedly pointed out is: If you are not 100 % sure – don´t eat it. Under those two links you can find out more about how to pick the right mushrooms, but remember: It’s always your own responsibility to make sure you pick the right mushrooms.
As for me I have never really managed to pick mushrooms, even though I have been spending time in the forest since the end of the 70’s, or maybe because of that. When I walk in the forest, I can´t keep my eyes on the ground, where most of the mushrooms are. I keep looking up in the treetops and on the stems. I look and try to figure out how to fell the trees: “Aah, that one is a challenge. I would have to use some wedges to get it down in the right direction.” or “That was an ugly one. It should be removed to make room for the nice ones standing next to it.” or “Wow! That one really has some nice saw logs in it! I wonder how much you could get for it.”
When walking around thinking like that, it´s not easy to find anything on the ground. Luckily for me, there are others close by that can find the mushrooms for me. I prefer to eat them, and maybe help carrying them from the forest, if someone else finds them.
Not only mushrooms
Of course, I have the same problem finding berries. But berries are actually easier to find in the forest as they have colors that are signaling that they are there. Red and blue are colors that are otherwise not so common in the forest.
Blueberries, lingonberries, raspberries, blackberries, cloudberries and wild strawberries are quite common in the Swedish forests. Especially blueberries and lingonberries are picked in vast volumes, also professionally.
People from other countries come to Sweden every year to pick berries and sell them to buyers who represent the food industry. As they are allowed to go into any forest (by foot), thanks to the right of public access, they also “vacuum-clean” private forests of berries in some areas. Understandably, not all landowners like that. Especially as there are companies making money on bringing e.g., workers from Thailand to pick berries on private Swedish forest land.
(According to the right of public access, “Allemansrätten”, you are allowed to visit all forest land in Sweden by foot (not with any kind of vehicle such as cars, ATV:s, motorbikes, bicycles, etc.) and to pick flowers, mushrooms and berries. Picking, felling or in anyway damaging trees and bushes is however prohibited)
What´s in it for common people?
The fact that people travel across the World to pick berries makes me wonder why the locals don´t do the job instead. My theory is that it´s not profitable enough for Swedes. Or maybe the work is too hard? Shouldn´t it be a potential extra income for forest owners?
It seems that the only benefit for the forest owner with berries and mushrooms is that they get some recreation by picking it and an extra treat on the dinner table occasionally. Of course, if differs, some forest owners are more engaged than others.
Hunting is maybe the most common activity for forestry people when they seek recreation. Hunting is however not included in the right of public access. To hunt you need to be an owner or a tenant of the hunting ground.
These are other examples of how fantastic the forest is
Of course, we should utilize as much of what the forest can offer as possible. The question is if berry- and mushroom picking is profitable enough for forest owners to get engaged in? I´ll leave that up to the forest owners to decide. It´s probably easier to make a profit on hunting.
Anyway, these are other examples of how versatile the forest is. Remember that there was a time when “we” lived only of what we found in the forest. Ok, that was a while ago, but if it was doable then it should be doable now.
Photos: Per Jonsson