Abundance all around us
Learning about the art of foraging in Norway and at home
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
A few years ago, I signed up my then-19-month-old-son Carl for a nature exploration camp. For eight weeks, we met with eight other toddlers and their parents every Friday at Seattle’s Discovery Park. The leader guided us through areas of the park: a creek, wetlands, beach, the forest, and more. The kids set the hiking pace, and it gave us the space to experience nature through their eyes.
I learned so much during those summer mornings, and my favorite was learning about the native fauna and flora. The sunset hues of salmonberries belied their mouth-puckering sourness. The widely celebrated red huckleberries grew out of fallen trees. The knee-high trailing blackberries tasted of summer sunshine.
Once I knew what to look for, my eyes were opened to the abundance all around us. My boys and I delight in finding these sweet treats on our nature walks through city parks and hiking trails that change through the seasons.
Foraging is a delightful element of Norway’s culture of outdoor recreation, from picking wild blåbær on hikes and a sopptur to gather mushrooms. I was first introduced to Norway’s foraging tradition when I spent a fall semester during college at the Høyskolen i Hedmark in Hamar. I wasn’t brave enough at that point to harvest wild mushrooms with my classmates, but I certainly enjoyed multekrem (cloudberries in whipped cream) when visiting my relatives in Hemsedal.
Gathering berries along nature walks makes me a foraging newbie, so I decided to reach out to a couple experts in Norway about foraging traditions, and how to turn the harvest into a feast.
I was delighted to talk with Runa Klock, who leads foraging expeditions for Offbeat Adventures, based in Ålesund.
Klock leads foraging hikes by the sea, the forest, and in the mountains. In the spring and early summer, it’s for flowers, wild herbs, and sprouts. Later in the season and toward fall, berries and mushrooms are on the list. And depending on the length of the tour, tour guides prepare some of the harvest over the campfire, such as pancakes with berries, salmon baked with juniper, mushroom soup, and more.
Klock writes, “In Norway, we have allemannsretten (directly translated as “everyone’s right”), the freedom to roam open, uncultivated land. While allemannsretten gives you a lot of freedom, it is important to respect nature, not to leave any trash behind or disturb the wildlife. Allemannsretten could be one of the reasons Norway has a great tradition in foraging. In the old times, it was by necessity. Now New Nordic cuisine is driving the rediscovery of “old traditions.”
When I asked her for some tips for foraging, she gave me key advice: “Foraging on your own requires some knowledge. A few berries and some mushrooms are poisonous, so never eat or taste if not 100% sure what it is. That said, blueberries, raspberries, cloudberries, and lingonberries are quite easy to recognize and plentiful in Norway, so you can eat all you find!”
I also chatted with Kirsten Winge, who is one of Norway’s best-known experts on foraging. She lives near Osensjøen in Hedmark, in eastern Norway. She is the co-author of six books with her husband, Arne Nohr, from Bærboka: Alt om bær fra natur og hage (The Berry Book: All about berries from nature and garden), Den Store Høsteboka (The Big Harvest Book) to Mat på bålet (Food on the Campfire), among others. She also gives lectures and courses about berries, hunting, and more.
“In the past, people had to pick berries and plants to survive. Today, we harvest for recreation and for finding good flavors. It is easy to freeze berries and plants that do not need to be cooked right away,” said Winge.
When I asked Winge about how she preserves her harvest, she said, “There may be jams, jellies, chutney, juices, and cakes, to name a few. There are two things I particularly recommend: Lingonberry gløgg and cloudberry syrup. There are very special and unique products that I make every single year.”
Winge’s website www.kirstenwinge.no features a wonderful archive of recipes in Norwegian.
Winge gave me some pointers for new foragers: A good guidebook, pick in dry weather, and this: “Pick what you will to eat and preserve. There is no need to clear out a whole area. Leave it alone for a bit. Remember that it should not appear that you have been there.”
Foraging in Norway isn’t limited to berries or mushrooms: nettles, wild herbs, spruce tips, juniper berries, and more, not to mention hunting or fishing. Tour company Møre-to-Sea offers Seaweed Safaris on the island of Herøy, in Møre og Romsdal in the Sunnmøre region of western Norway, where visitors can gather and taste different types of seaweed.
If you’re looking for some Norwegian recipes written in English, I love Nevada Berg’s blog and cookbook North Wild Kitchen, with recipes such as Wild Strawberry Soup with Wild Field Mint Cream, Creamy Chanterelle and Goat Cheese Skillet, and Beer-battered Spruce Tips. For drinks, Emily Vikre’s Camp Cocktails cookbook features some excellent Norwegian-inspired recipes for cordials and other infusions.
Seasonal treats in nature are available to everyone if you know where to look.
I’m curious – are you into foraging? What do you harvest in your area? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more:
Offbeat Adventures: offbeatadventures.no
Kirsten Winge: kirstenwinge.no
North Wild Kitchen: northwildkitchen.com
Tyttebærgløgg (Lingonberry Gløgg)
By Kirsten Winge
From Kirsten: “Lingonberry gløgg is one of the tastiest and most colorful things you can make from lingonberries. Ripe lingonberries are good for the body and soul. Together with some spices, it becomes magic.” Recipe can be halved, if desired.
12 cups of lingonberries
(fresh or frozen)
12 cups of water
2 tsps. whole cloves
1 tsp. cardamom pods, or ½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups of sugar
In a pot, combine lingonberries, water, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out the solids and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Remove any scum or bubbles. Pour the gløgg concentrate into clean bottles, and store in the refrigerator for up to one year. When ready to use, combine the gløgg concentrate with equal parts of red wine, or you can use water for a non-alcoholic version.
Savoykål med sopp og bær (Savoy Cabbage with Wild Mushrooms and Berries)
This warm cabbage salad isn’t a traditional Norwegian recipe, but it combines some of the best late summer gifts of the forest: berries and mushrooms. You can forage for these, but store-bought is also totally fine.
1 lb. savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 lb. wild mushrooms, such as oyster or chanterelle, thinly sliced
2 tbsps. olive oil
2 cups blackberries or other fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, currants)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsps. black currant syrup (can substitute wild berry syrup)
2 tbsps. balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together the black currant syrup, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper per your taste.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, drizzle in half the olive oil and sauté the cabbage until it starts to wilt but retains some crunch. Place in serving bowl. Pour in the remaining oil and sauté the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes to get some nice color. Season with salt and pepper, and place on top of the cabbage. Add berries and dressing, and garnish with the sesame seeds just before serving.
This article originally appeared in the July 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.