6 tips for berry picking and preserving

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Harvesting season is now at its best in Finnish Lapland, as both the cloudberry and blueberry harvests are ripe. However, it is not advisable to head to the cloudberry marsh or blueberry forest without proper planning. In this blog post, we will give you six handy tips for berry picking and preserving.
Berry picking - ripe cloudberries in Ranua in summer 2021

Familiarize yourself with potential berry picking spots in advance

In Finland, berry picking is part of everyone’s rights, which means that berry picking is allowed practically anywhere, unless it is specifically prohibited. However, good habits include staying far enough away from settlement and not picking berries directly from “under someone’s window”. Berries should also not be picked next to the larger roads due to traffic pollution.

Finding a good berry picking spot can be a time consuming task. A good starting point is to know in what kind of terrain each berry grows. Blueberries thrive in spruce and coniferous forests, raspberry shrubs grow mainly on the edges of felling areas and forest roads, and lingonberries on dry parts of the forest and even on cliffs. Cloudberries and cranberries, on the other hand, are worth looking for in marshy areas.

There are also good applications for berry searching that make it easy to see what type of terrain is in each area. A very handy tool for finding cloudberry marshes is the Visit Ranua’s Ranua App, which lists a total of dozens of Ranua cloudberry marshes. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices.

How to avoid getting lost in the forest?

You should not be afraid to go to the forest or the swamp, but especially when entering an unfamiliar area, you should prepare well in advance so that you can safely find your way back.

If you go picking berries alone, inform your family members or someone else you know about the trip in advance: be sure to tell when you are going and also where.

If you are not already familiar with the berry place, take a map and compass with you or download a separate map application to your smart device. This allows you to track your progress in the terrain in real time. The safest option is to proceed all the time so that you can see the road. When going to the forest or swamp, it is also good to check from which direction the sun is shining. By tracking the position of the sun, you can determine quite accurately which direction you are going at any given time.

You should always bring your phone fully charged and download the free 112 application to your phone. The app makes it easier for authorities to locate you if you happen to get lost or injured. If you feel lost, contact the authorities or someone who knows the area immediately. It is not worth consuming energy with aimless walking.

How to dress up for the berry picking trip?

A wide variety of insects with the ability to sting or bite are a nuisance to the berry picker, whether you’re in in the woods or in a swamp. It is worth dressing opaquely for the berry picking trip, but still lightly, as the walks on the berry trip can be unexpectedly long. Especially in sunny weather, you should also put on some kind of headgear, such as a cap. It is advisable to wear well-fitting rubber boots, although other type of shoes can be used in the dry forests. You should consider favoring light colors that are easily spotted in the wilderness. You should also apply some mosquito repellent, especially on the neck and wrists, as well as on the back of your palms.

What should you take with you?

On a berry trip, it is worth taking with you a high-quality collection container, which can be, for example, small freezer boxes or a bucket. Soft berries, such as raspberries, which are usually also smaller in quantity, should be collected directly in smaller freezers. Harder-surfaced blueberries and lingonberries, on the other hand, can be collected in a larger bucket if desired. A handy tool for picking blueberries and lingonberries is the berry picker, which is available today in a wide variety. When picking with a berry picker, the picking itself is faster, but on the other hand, significantly more leaves and other rubbish is also accumulated. Picking wild raspberries can be made easier by wearing garden gloves with cut fingertips. The gloves protect the picker from the thorns of the raspberry bushes, while the bare fingertips make it easier to pick the berries.

You should also reserve enough water and snacks for the berry picking trip. These two things can be vital for both coping and especially in the case you get lost in the wilderness.

What if you run into a bear?

The notorious “berry bear” and has risen to an almost legendary position, especially here in Lapland. In reality, however, you should not be afraid of the brown bear at all. The surprisingly agile king of the forest, avoids people to the best of his ability and believe me: that ability is really high. The brown bear can be helped in this task even further by keeping making noise while being in the nature. A simple clap or kick to a nearby tree usually does the job well enough. The bear hears sounds and can smell us humans from a long distance, which makes encounters with bears very rare.

However, if you manage to win the jackpot and actually run into a bear in the woods or swamp, the most important thing to do is to stay calm in the situation.

It is not advisable to either shout or seek eye contact with the bear, but instead retreat from the situation as calmly as you can. You can also talk softly while doing this.

If, in spite of doing things right, the bear decides to attack, it is worth throwing yourself on the ground and to try to protect your neck area. You should always inform the authorities about this kind of situations.

What to do with the berries after picking?

The berries should be cleaned as soon as possible after picking. It is much more difficult to clean berries that have already softened. When talking about blueberries and lingonberries, berries on a flat surface and pick up the debris from among the berries one by one. Blueberries and lingonberries can also be cleaned using a large separate grate or a funnel designed for berry cleaning attached to a vacuum cleaner, which makes cleaning quite effortless.

When picking cloudberries and raspberries, cleaning can also be done during picking by plucking out individual debris as it appears in the picking container. When leaving the forest, it is a good idea to put a lid in the bucket to protect the clean berries during the walk back.

If you plan to freeze berries, you should dispense them in freezer boxes or bags. A small amount of sugar can be sprinkled on top of the berries, which makes the berries’ vitamin contents, taste and colors better. Some berries, such as lingonberry, cranberry, sea buckthorn and blueberry, also survive without sugar. Soft berries in particular demand about half a deciliter to a deciliter of sugar per each liter.

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