The wild plants that grow in Finland from April till October are an abundance. They include small greens, leaves and buds on trees. There is a tradition of thousands of years to dry them for the long winter. The dried plants are easy to use and they will give you a sauna experience which is on a whole new level!
Also foreigners are allowed to pick most of the plants even on private lands according to the ancient Finnish tradition that nature belongs to everybody. Some of the plants, especially everything green on trees require a permission of the land owner or a mobile permit for goverment owned forests. One can buy it on line before collecting and it is not expensive (like 50 cents per kilo for spruce buds).
After collecting the plants, one should put them to dry as soon as possible as they begin to ferment very quickly unless cooled. First it is advisable to check the quality and remove all spoiled plants and the ones that are not supposed to be there. Normally it is not necessary to rinse them.
Drying is after all fairly simple. One can spread the plants on a baking paper and set in a warm place where there is a good air ventilation, many people use their electric sauna for this purpose. Traditional houses in Finland have a big baking oven and after it is heated, above on the the top of it is an ideal place. One can also place small amounts on the top of a refrigerator if there is good air flow.
Some plants are thicker and more difficult to dry totally and they can be dried in a regular home oven. Set it on 50 degrees celsius and put the fan on. Leave the oven door open for 5 cm for instance with the help of a small match box. There are also different devices planned for these purpose, if one gets excited of plant drying. The flow of air is even more important than temperature for drying the plants. It is of utmost importance that the plants dry completely. So that they crack when you squeeze them. Otherwise they may get mold on them. Even touching the dried plants when packing them may leave some moisture to them. It is better to use gloves.
The healthy substances in the dried plants stay well for years, even upto 95 % after three years has been measured. When the plants are given boiling water and simmered there for a while, many good antioxidants and minerals are then in the water for foot baths or as tea. Plus the unique, personal aroma and scent of each plant are freed to create a soothing and relaxing experience in the bliss of a sauna.
Mr Jouko Kivimetsä is foraging expert and trainer, wild plant product deverloper, chairman of the board of Wild Plant Association of Finland.