Foraging for food:
The easiest way to obtain food is by foraging. Most hunter-gatherers actually obtain as much as 80 percent of their food from gathering rather than hunting.
And in northern Norway, the coastline/ocean is the place to do it. It is no coincidence that most people here mostly live by the coast.
All seaweed is edible.
Kelp (Alaria and Laminaria) can be eaten raw but better cooked.
Sugar wreck (Laminaria sacarina) could be eaten as is but also dried and fried (picture above).
Dulse (Palmaria palmata aka Søl in Norwegian), can be dried or eaten raw. This was a commercial item in the Viking age. Dry the Dulse in the sun or near a fire for six ours. Press the leaves together to a compact block. The dry dulse could then be cooked.
Try dry dulse fried in a pan with butter. Fry until it changes color and add some black pepper. Enjoy.
Eat little at first until you get used to it. Do NOT eat if short of water.
AVOID if wilted, slimy or odorous.
BIVALVES/ SNAILS: (Picture)
Best time to look for them is at low tide. Look for them on rocks or dig them out of the sand.
Common mussels (mytilus edulis) (above and below) can be up to 10cm long, are found from 0 to 10 meters depth. Often found in connection with fresh water, rivers and creek outlets. Can also be found in tidal pools. Cook until it opens. Very good to eat.
Horse mussels (modiolus modiolus) are found from 0 to 20 meters depth. Similar to the common mussel but grow bigger and are rounder in shape.
Cockle (cerastoderma edule)(picture below), 5 cm in diameter at most, is found buried in the sand of shallow water. The shell is found only 1-2 cm below the surface. The cockles below were dug out in a few minutes with a digging stick. The larges is about 3 cm in diameter.
Cockles taste pretty good.
Razor shells (ensis arcuatus), about 15 cm in length, found in sand of shallow waters.
Black quahog clam (arctica islandica), not shown, about 12 cm, is also a common bivalve in shallow water. Found in sand or mud.
Limpets (Patella vulgata )
They are very common and are not (so often) poisonous like mussels can be as they aren’t filter feeders. They aren’t really bivalves but actually a snail.
I believe this food source are the easiest to obtain as they are easy to collect and are found in large numbers on rocks everywhere along the coastline. They taste a little bit like common mussels, but are chewier.
An easy way to cook them is to make them fasten to a flat rock (just set them on a moist flat rock), build a fire and scrape the hot embers over the limpets. Wait 5 minutes and they are ready (pictures below).
Periwinkles (littorina litorea).Size; up to 4 cm. Common on rocky ground all over Norway. Cook them in salt water. Use a small stick (toothpick) to extract them from the shell. Remember to get rid of the hard part it use to close the shell with.
Cook shells and snails for 5 minutes.
Bivalves can be poisonous because they feed on poisonous algae. Check with SNT whether they are poisonous in your part of Norway. Cooking doesn’t make poisonous bivalves edible.
The sea urchin (echinus esculentus) could also be eaten, or at least its gonad. Sea urchin is an export article and you will most likely find them on the menu of a gourmet restaurant in Europe or Asia.
The gonad is eaten raw, but one could also add it to a stew. The urchin is about 100 grams and the gonad usually 20 grams.
The urchins could be picked from tidal pools at low tide or caught with a long pole.
This may be a delicacy in Asia, but it it is not my cup of tea. The gonads texture is awful.
Angelica (angelica archangelica), pictures above.
May – September.
The stalks of young plants are pealed an eaten as sellery. They may also be dried, and used later. Earlier they laid down the stalks in a mix of sugar and water. This was used as ingredience in fine bread and as confect. The plant has been used against scurvy.
The leaves can be dried and used for tea. The plant may taste a little bitter but if cooked it will be sweat.
The root is sweat and was used as candy, or as chewing tobacco/tobacco in time of crisis.
The plant was much used alongside with rhubarb. Rhubarb is not native to northern Norway but has spread from gardens and is found many places.
Young spring shoots of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) can be eaten. The fern is 70-170 cm high when full grown. It is easily recognized early in spring from the brown spore bearing fronds (showing in the middle of the picture above).
The shoots (5-15cm) are collected, just break them of, brushed clean (remove the brown stuff) and boiled for 10 minutes. If you want to keep your resource, don’t harvest more than about 7-8 shoots from each plant. More will weaken its growth.
Fiddleheads are much used in the US and Canada, but is not a much used food plant here.
I’ve eaten fiddleheads only once but wasn’t too impressed with the taste. It is a green after all; I’m not too fond of asparagus either.
Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium)
Found from May to September.
Grows to about 1.5 meters in height. Flowering in July-august.
Fresh leaves used as salad, the young shoots used as asparagus. Leaves are rich in vitamin A and C.
Dried and ground roots were used as extension of flour in time of crisis. The root is rich in starch. The root is most nutritious from September to May.
Split the root and get rid of the wood-like brown “cord”. Roast the root until brown and dry. Cook it for some minutes, change water and then cook it for 15 minutes.
Dried leaves can be used as tea. Pick the leaves before the plant flowers.
Alpine Bistort (Bistorta vivipara), pictures above.
June-August. About 10-20 cm tall.
You can eat the whole plant but the root and the bulblets are the main food parts. Eat raw or cooked.
One decilitre of the bulblets weighs about 50 grams and you need 750 grams to cover your daily needs.
The root is the size of half your little finger (above). Nutritious all year around, but most nutritious from July to October. (Obviously you can’t collect it in winter as the ground is frozen solid).
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). This should be one of the most known plants of all.
Grows in most of Europe and really well known for those trying to maintain a nice garden.
While it is not really a plant of the wild you will find it along side roads, fields and on cultivated land.
The young leaves can be eaten like salad. It doesn`t taste bad at all (if you are into greens that is). Older leaves are bitter in taste.
The flowers could be used in omlets and stews (as could the leaves).
I dip them in pancake batter and fry them in a pan.
A light sprinkle with lemon juice makes them even better, although you won`t find many lemons in the Norwegian woods.
The root could be dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute, although I have never tasted it.
The young leaves in spring (still sticky) could be eaten raw or used to make tea. Boiled water is poured over a handful of fresh leaves. Sweeten with sugar if you have. The leaves contains vitamin C.
You could also dry these leaves for later use.
The birch sap could also be collected. Usually in may (depending on the temperature), before the leaves appear.
The easiest way to collect the sap is cutting off the end of a branch and tread a bottle over the branch end.
A more effective way is to drill a small hole in the tree and led the sap into a container with a plastic tube or a hollow stem of some sort.
Remember to plug the hole after use.
The birch sap tastes a little bland for us modern people who are accustomed to a diet rich in sugar. But boiling it down a bit makes it a little sweeter.
The sap contains xylitol (sugar), proteins, amino acids and minerals.
The sap will spoil quickly and is better used straight away. Frozen it will last longer.
Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
All year around.
The soft layer between the wood and the outer bark is scraped off, dried and ground to flour. The flour could be used in soup or other dishes. Pine was the most common three used for bark bread.
Use the soft shoots to make tea, preferably together with shoots of spruce (Pica abies), picture above. Use a handful of shots to a litre of boiling water. Let it sit for a while and remove the shots. Drink as is or sweeten with sugar or honey (if you got any).
All year around (pictures below).
The dark blue berries are rich in sugar. One can make both jam and juice from them. The juice could be used to keep other berries which don’t contain sugar. The berries are green before they ripen.
Dried berries are great as spice for meat, fish and in sauces.
The berries could be cooked until it becomes a sticky substance called ”treak”. This was used as candy in earlier times.
You could also use the berries for tea. Roast them over the fire and cook them. Juniper branches laid over meat or fish will deter (most) flies from spoiling it.
The berries are easiest collected by laying a tarp, poncho or something under the bush and whack the branches so that the berries fall unto it.
The branches, with needles, were earlier used to make a concoction (hot water and branches) used to wash milk buckets, ale brewing equipment and as shampoo.
Rock tripe (Umbilicaria)
Rock tripe (picture below) is easy digested and edible in a raw state, but better if you cook it first. The laver doesn’t need to be watered out in lye. An expedition in the 1800 kept alive by eating only rock tripe for 30 days. I’ve only eaten them dry, from the rock, and it taste like paper.
When boiled and cooled you get sort of a jelly like substance which could be carried along when travelling to a new camp.
There are several kinds of edible berries around. The most abundant and easiest to pick are the Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus).The plant is about 15-30 cm. high and easy to recognise by the orange berries. The berries can be harvested in July- august, and little effort yields big harvest.
Very tasty and contains lots of vitamin C. The berries also contains benzoic acid and can be stored long times without being spoiled (in most cases).
Picture below left. The picture below right is the same plant flowering in early June.
Bog Bilberry(Vaccinium uliginosum)is common all over the country. It looks like a blueberry but it is paler, white on the inside and doesn’t taste as good. The berry is found in marshes, mores and forests. Not as abundant as Blueberries.
Contains vitamin C. Picture below left.
Blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)are found in most of the Norwegian forests and usually in large quantities (picture above right).
They are best picked with a berry picker.
Blueberries taste good and could also be used as a remedy against diarrhea.
Contains lots of antioxidants and also contains vitamin C.
Lingonberry/Cowberry(Vaccinium vitis-idaea), above pic. A low shrub, about 10cm high, found in moist places with lots of shadow.
The berries taste a little acidic, but contain vitamin E and C.
And the berries are easy to store for a long, long time as they contain benzoic acid.
Lingonberries are often used as accessory to meat dishes.
Raspberries (Rubus idaeus)
A slightly thorny bush about 1-2 meters high. Not a native plant. Didn’t arrive in the Nordic countries before 1700 AD, but have spread widely from the first garden bushes. Raspberries are found in most of Norway, but scarce in FinnmarkCounty.
Thrive in open fields, especially logging areas or land fills.
The berries are very good and rich in iron and vitamin C. One could also make tea from the leaves.
Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)
A low green shrub about 10-25cm high. The black berries contains a little vitamine C, and a lot of antioxidants, but taste rather bland. The seeds are also rather hard, making it less desired as a food source. This is one of the least used berries in the north nowadays.
It is however used to flavour liquor or to make juice.
I use them mostly to quench the thirst when up in the mountain and water is more scarce. Just toss them in, chew out the moisture and spit out the rest.
The plant was also used for brooms and to make pot scrubs.
Rowan berries (Sorbus aucuparia)
A very easy recognisable fruit from the Rowan tree. Found all over Norway. The taste is very acidic and bitter, but the berries contains a lot of vitamin C. Freezing the berries make them more palatable.
Rowan berries are used to make jelly as a side dish for game (also an ingredience in the liquor “Gammel Dansk”).
Earlier the berries was used against scurvy.
The berries was earlier also used as bait when snaring trushes.