Foto: Outi Autere

The Royal Jewel

Put a beanie on and let’s go! The cold is no reason to stay inside moping, and neither is the incipient polar darkness. There are no fewer hours in a day even though the Sun is hiding, and there is so much to do! Dress warmly and get out. Literally. Seriously.

It is the time of the year again, when the first minus degrees of the autumn mornings are teasing bare fingers and tips of the ears. If one happens to walk on frosty grass, the grass makes itself heard by making sounds – like corn flakes between the teeth; «crunch crunch». Breath is visible. Air is crispy too, but oh so fresh – until it gets to the lungs and forces few coughs to ease the breath after a surprising cold. Trees have no clothes on, they are stripped to the pavement and are all old, ripped and wet, and it would be time for new clothes anyways. It is late autumn, or better to say early winter, and everything gets ready to sleep over that upcoming cold winter period.

This very time also reports that harvest time is over; if vegetables, mushrooms and fruits have been left where they grew, they can be left behind for good – they are now either frozen to death or eaten by animals who need more nutrition to warm them against the cold one way or another. But many animals have other plans to survive over the long and dark winter – they have left the cold and booked tickets to warm countries, to any places where the Sun doesn’t care to play months long hide and seek. Animals are pretty wise in that sense too.

People are walking heads covered inside to their jackets, hands stuffed into the pockets and with rapid steps. Everyone is focusing to peep behind their carry-on shelters just enough to prevent the fall down in slippery streets. Smiles are fewer day after day and it feels like all the busy streets turn deserted until there is literally no one to be seen. It makes one wonder the possible changes that evolution has given to this northern People.

And still everything is just a matter of dressing appropriately! It can be felt when putting an extra layer wool on, a colourful beanie and warm gloves and heading to the woods, just around the corner. Everything seems so beautiful and safe. Nature is smiling, welcoming to the wonderland. Shades of white on the ground, making it look so fragile but so strong, even as if the history would tell there and then that this is just a circle of life – you need the change in order to grow. Distant birds are singing with slow and sad chords, but trees are still standing tall, like saying proudly that they have vacancy for those who will stay and they can offer a full Board.

After only minutes of wonder and admiration a field of gold opens out behind these tree hotels. Every corner glowing so bright to compete can some parts be more yellow than the others, longer frosty straws here and there, and something so tremendous gleaming out from a ground. It is a swamp, but definitely not just any swamp. This very quagmire is one of the hidden kingdoms, which have a privilege to populate royals. Every single square meter of that 10-football-court-sized field is full of bright, shiny, round, red jewels that has an entire life in them. Antioxidants, vitamins, beta-carotene, iron, omega-fatty-acids; everything can be found largely in these tip-of-a-pinkie-sized berries that truly are glowing their superiority when nothing else can even lift their heads anymore in the coldness. By their nutritional value, survival skills and health effects, among other things, this red berry is without a doubt the king of all the berries. So modest, but oh so Rich.

The berry – Cranberry

Cranberries, originally craneberries, turn into glamorous red when fully ripe, at the time when every other berries are already frozen and wilted. The colder it gets, the better it is for this berry. Its acidic taste may surprise many in the autumn but after cold and snow it gets sweeter. It can be picked throughout the entire winter if cold doesn’t scare the picker. Even if they are growing side by side, in huge red carpets, they need to be picked one by one because of their fragile skins – one doesn’t want the blood of the royalty in their hands.

Cranberries grow in tussocks, but usually still so that they are partly underneath the wet moss of the swamp. So to actually go for cranberry picking, there are few things to take into a consideration, and the most important one is to have warm, waterproof clothes. A picker needs to stand in a wet swamp, so rubber boots and anything warm to wear are vital. Berries can’t be picked with gloves on as they are so small and soft when ripe, but the time for picking these tricky berries is when everyone would normally wear gloves. That is when something is borrowed from the fishermen. Cranberry pickers thank fishermen for the gloves without fingertips. With these there is at least a possibility to stay warm(-er). And as standing quite still with a good spot, one can never really wear too much clothes. Sooner or later the cold starts to bite into bones, but every moment is worth it. And the time in a cranberry swamp can be thought as a stretching class too. The position isn’t really the optional for anyone’s back, and can really affect for those who have back problems beforehand, so stretching all the muscles in the swamp is part of the game. Furthermore, the berry picking might increase the flexibility, when standing legs straight, bum high up in the air and working swiftly in the ground level with hands, almost as in yoga when doing a down dog.

However, when cranberry picking it is good to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. A bucket fills up little by little even if it might take longer than expected. The only thing that matters is the high value that is gotten from it. It might be that a bucket of cranberries can be sold in a good price too but mostly the value is in the berries themselves as well as already in the process. Cranberries are the super food in the very best meaning of the term, and to pick them makes one to stay outdoors, and that is moreover a complete different value. It can be unbelievable how much a stay in nature can affect one’s well-being; physical activity increases, mind and body revives from a stress, concentration multiplies, pulse and blood pressure become lower and mood turns better. Super food indeed. HOX! There is a danger though. There is no possibility of going to nature once – it will become a habit.

Put a beanie on and let’s go!

Text: Outi Autere