Finally, we have leaves on the birch trees. The cold, damp and windy weather seems to have prolonged the suspense. Most years they all leaf spontaneously within a couple of days at the beginning of the month. Not so this year: we have had bitter north winds, torrential rain and nighttime temperatures close to zero throughout May.
Slow Food Helsinki came to Rosendal today to forage for spring plants in the forest and on the fields. It was a bright sunny morning but there was a bitter westerly wind that didn't let up all day. We found wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), nettles, ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), dandelions, rosebay willowherb (Chamerion augustifolium) AND... some of these:
These are false morels (Gyromitra esculenta). They are a delicacy in Finland which is a bit odd since they are deadly poisonous and their sale is banned in many European countries. I have never seen any here before but it has been exceptionally wet in recent days and Peter has churned up the track with the tractor wheels which may have encouraged their growth.
In order to eat them safely they can either be dried or repeatedly boiled in fresh water. Either way, the preparation is a lengthy process.
Today we collected over three litres of birch sap in just a few hours from two taps that we fitted this morning. To be honest, it just tasted of slightly sweet water, but it is very refreshing.
We drilled about 15 cm into the tree at an angle of approx 30 degrees. The pipe is pushed about 2-3 cm into the hole and the sap starts flowing immediately but slows down to about four drops per second after a while. We taped the bottles to the tree to prevent them falling over when full. It probably took about 4-5 hours to fill each bottle. We left the tubes in situ but plugged them. I'll collect some more later in the week.
The sap keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge. Apparently it takes around 90-120 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup (whereas maple syrup only needs 30:1).