Meet a Lapland forager
Interview with Eva Gunnare whom I met through W-Power, but first heard about through a friend who saw Eva deliver a taste experience at Stirling's foraging festival in 2019.
Tell us what you do?
In my company, Essense of Lapland, l love to share my discoveries about local food, nature and culture of Lapland through flavour shows, guided flavour walks, herbal classes and sometimes eight season dinner experiences. I usually call myself a food creator and culture guide. I got a suggestion to use the title "Wild herb alchemist", since my biggest passion and knowledge is about edible wild plants and turning them into tasty and healthy treats.
Could you tell us about your journey into discovering wild plants?
Every summer I loved to pick berries and vegetables from the garden at our holiday house. Some to eat, some to play with! Then in my twenties I came to the Swedish mountains to work at a mountain lodge in Kvikkjokk. Whenever I was free from work it was great to take part in the organised walks. One guide especially knew a lot about edible plants and brought some herbs into the restaurant for us to use. Suddenly everything green got names and personalities! When I took a one-year course 11 years ago to learn all about traditional Sami food, I chose to do my exam work about edible plants and berries that old Sami persons remembered to have foraged and used. After that I was totally passionated about "hidden" and forgotten food with great taste just around the corner!
Could you tell us about the people you have learned from and what they have imparted to you?
My mother, who loves food and gardening (but not always everyday cooking!); the guide in Kvikkjokk, who had such a passion for finding plants and the discovery for edible ones; my teacher, Greta Huuva who knew a lot about wild herbs and had very deep connection to nature. I think people with passions have such a great way of sharing the joy and fascination about things they do. For me the combination with the wild, local and beautiful nature (I'm not a gardener!), with foraging, and with eating great food (I love food!) was such a happy eye-opener for me.
What is your sense of humanity today - our relationship with flora and fauna compared with that of our foraging ancestors?
Our ancestors had a long continuous knowledge about what to forage and how to work with nature. Here in the north of Sweden there haven't been many farmers, so most people has gone from being hunters and foragers directly to modern living. But the last generations have lost so much knowledge, since the "new world" with industries and food to buy has meant that foraging wasn't needed (and meant you were poor...) and a lot of the knowledge was not passed on.
Now we lack time and diversified nature. So being out foraging is a luxury!
For me it's pure joy to spend time in the meadows, mountains and forests getting to know the environment better. And when I come home with my basket filled, I can use my drying oven, freezer or electric stove to preserve everything quick and easy. In todays' world we have so many machines for making things easier and quicker. But is quicker and easier better? Probably not... It gets us time to do lots of things: to travel, to try new things, to entertain ourselves. People know lots of things - but briefly. But I have learned that the more I get to know my own area (herbs, traditions, nature), the more connected I feel to it and that is such a great feeling! And I am certain that the more connected you are - the more you want to work with nature - and not against it.