Bærtur, the Annual Nordic Berry Picking
Updated: Aug 17
Late summer and early autumn in Scandinavia sees a craze affect everyone from the oldest to the youngest. It's called "bærtur" or berry trips. The forests are full of people picking blueberries, and mountainsides of those on that very special hunt for the highly prized cloudberry. It's a wonderful national pastime that gets the nation out in the fresh air doing something healthy and constructive and not to mention rewarding.
The forests are full of blueberries, raspberries and lingonberries. If you are lucky you'll find redcurrants and cloudberries and the whole country is out at the weekend with their berry buckets picking and enjoying the wonderful harvest that is available to us all.
It's such a phenomenon that the government in Norway even has it's own website promoting the wild harvest, which berries are safe to eat and where you can find them. People exchange ideas online for picking and share the best places to pick. Provided the bushes are growing in open land there are no laws to stop anyone from picking as much as they want and wherever they want. It's called "allemannsrett" and is one of the oldest laws that governs open spaces and freedom to use open spaces. The only laws are the strange and slightly confusing cloudberry laws that can seem so odd to those of us who grew up in other places. Cloudberries are a rare and prized find and there are specific rules for picking them in certain areas.
Of course, berry picking is also a huge part of Nordic culture. People here have been picking and enjoying berries for thousands of years and the uses and recipes that have been passed down through the generations reflect that. There are also the incredible health benefits from superfoods such as blueberries, made all the more precious when they are collected from land that has never seen chemicals and eaten on the spot.
You don't need to be a Norwegian or even in Scandinavia to make the most of your own bærtur. I've got a few ideas to get you inspired and started on a bærtur like a true Scandinavian.
How you can Enjoy a Bærtur like you're Nordic:
Get clued up on what you can and can't eat
Arm yourself with a really good guide to what's edible and what's not, and get out in the wild to pick. There are plenty of Youtube guides and online courses to help determine what is safe and what is not. If you don't have access to wild berries, you can always take a trip to a pick your own farm or maybe there's a family member or friend who will share their berry bushes with you. If you catch the berry bug, you can plant your own for next year's harvest.
Dress for the weather
It would be lovely to think that all bærtur are taken in the warm autumn sun, but in Scandinavia that's not always true. Rain or shine those berries are still out there, so don't forget to dress to be warm and dry. You'll be grateful for wellies or a coat when you've found the motherload and don't want to leave because of a few drops of rain!
Get your equipment together
You don't really need anything more than a bucket or a bag, but it makes life a lot easier if you have a berry picker (like the one Mia is using above) and plenty of pots to keep your different berries separate. I love to put all my foraging treasures into a special basket. I enjoy that connection to nature and there's something very satisfying about filling a wicker basket, plus they are very photogenic for all those Instagram posts when you need to boast about your finds.
Think about how you will use your berries
My youngest has a "one for the pot, one for the tum" policy when we are on a bærtur and you can't argue with the health benefits of eating them straight away. But I do like to try to keep some berries for the months ahead. Line up some recipes that you think might make the most of your bounty. They can be recipes that use fresh berries or exciting ways to enjoy them in perseveres, fermentation or dried. My favourite ways to use all berries are fruit leather, jams, cordials and wines. All of those keep into the winter and spring and remind us of the fun times we had collecting.
Don't forget you can store them
Some berries, like lingonberries will keep very happily in the fridge for weeks and weeks, but others like raspberries are past their best after just a few days. It's helps to be prepared for storing your berries. The freezer is always the easiest option. Berries that are a little firmer can simply be put into a freezer bag thrown in the freezer. But the softer varieties like raspberries benefit from being frozen on trays and then put in bags or boxes. They stay apart from each other and don't get squished. There are lots of great resources to help you make the very best of what you have picked. One of my favourites is the River Cottage Food Tube channel.
I hope I've given you a little spark of enthusiasm to get out on your own bærtur. Don't forget some "turmat" (snacks) to keep your energy up and make the whole trip koselig, and remember your coat!
If you love the Nordic life and want to learn more, why not join us in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group. We are members from all over the world, sharing our Nordic lives with each other.