Finland's summer feast
From August to September, families gather at summer cottages across the country for no-claws-barred crayfish feasts. (Anders Blomqvist/LPI)
Summers in Finland are short but sweet. For three brief months, from mid-June to mid-September, temperatures soar as high as 30C and the Nordic forests bask under baby blue skies for up to 24 hours a day. After icebox conditions and perpetual darkness through the long months of winter, Finns embrace the summer with gusto. Lakes echo with the splash of swimmers and kayak paddles, and whole cities decamp to the countryside for lavish family feasts, fuelled by seasonal treats like crayfish, lingonberries and wild mushrooms.
Recharging your vitamin D levels is one reason to join the summer celebrations; Juhannus (midsummer) is another. Held each June on the closest weekend to the longest day of the year (this year from 22 to 24 June), midsummer is Finland's most enthusiastic party -- an excuse for lakeshore bonfires, midnight airshows, drinking games, skinny dipping, saunas and all-you-can-eat banquets of grillimakkara (grilled sausages) served with mustard and the season's first new potatoes. Cheese is another midsummer staple, a legacy of the upsurge in milk production that followed the cows’ migration to summer pastures, and at family picnics you may encounter the curious Juhannusjuusto, cooked cheese curds served cold, sprinkled with sugar.
For dessert, nature provides. From Åland to Lapland, wild berries paint the pine forests in Pointillist polka dots throughout the summer. City dwellers flock to the forests in July to harvest bilberries, wild raspberries, tart red lingonberries, wild cranberries and cloudberries – little clusters of orange bobbles that do indeed resemble tiny clouds.
Juhannus may be the biggest feast, but Finland's love affair with wild food lasts all summer long. From June to September, you will be bombarded by tantalizing seasonal delicacies – wild mushrooms, nettle pancakes, bilberry pies, kiisseli (wild berry soup) -- and menus that change almost daily as new ingredients appear on the forest floor. Here are our favourite ways to immerse yourself in Finland's wild-food bonanza.