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5 reasons to follow the Horta (Wild Food) Lifestyle

Published: 24/01/2023
Jouko Kivimetsä
Horta farmer and trainer. From 1998 onwards Jouko has been working on the different ways of using wild plants as superfood nutrition and ailments, how to make products out of them, how to teach to large audiences. Jouko became the leading developer and teacher in these themes in Finland and growingly also internationally.

Date of the last update: 24.01.2023

Having spent over 20 years promoting the collection of wild vegetables almost “full-time”, I have heard at least 50 good reasons why everyone has taken to foraging for wild plants, known as “horta”. Given the huge number of benefits, choosing the five best reason is fairly tricky, but here we go. Collecting wild plants and flowers has been the fastest growing outdoor hobby in my native Finland in this millennium. Already over 20% of people over the age of 15 consider themselves horticulturists- a figure that is surely a world record per capita!

Table of Contents:

  1. Ethics: Sustainable development, equality, climate
  2. To indulge for deliciousness
  3. Nutritional values of wild plants
  4. A sense of security and an emergency reserve
  5. Horta invites you to go to nature and open your eyes

You can read this article in 4 minutes.

Reason 1. Ethics: Sustainable development, equality, climate

The carbon footprint of wild foods whose is usually zero – or even carbon negative, contributing to natural environments. If the food is within walking distance and you collect it in a reusable bag or container and if you choose to dry the plants, placing them in a warm place without additional energy- there is no environmental harm done. You do not use machines, chemicals or transport equipment, as in the case of industrial food production. Therefore, replacing some conventional products in your diet with horta, eliminates carbon footprint that burdens the planet and doesn’t contribute to agricultural activities that impoverish the soil. The growth of wild foods oppresses no one and you don’t need organic certification for that. At least in Finland, wild Plants are really clean.

You can collect wild plants almost anywhere. The treasure of wild plants is accessible to everyone- rich and poor, old or young. Horta can even be found in a small yard. All you need is the knowledge, which can be easily acquired under the guidance of an informed friend (hopefully a qualified one!) or by attending one of the many affordable courses that provide you with a lifelong good nature hobby that connect you with nature with every visit.

In some cases, the carbon footprint of horta can even be negative. If city centers have wild plant areas fenced off (from dogs and geese), then horta will also be accessible to city dwellers, who would no longer need car journeys to acquire wild, healthy foods. Mowing the lawn requires fuel and irrigation, whilst leaving wild hedgerow to thrive provides a small “carbon sink”. If you collect wild foods, the climate thanks you! 

Reason 2. Indulge for deliciousness

Horta is delicious! Almost all Michelin restaurants use wild plants. The top chefs don’t use even them for their numerous health benefits, but for the amazing, natural flavours and aromas.

My personal favourite flavours amongst the numerous edible wild herbs are the tender, carroty shoots of the goat’s rue, the juicy peel of the field bush, the elegantly flavoured blueberry flowers and the dizzying combination of wildflower tea: spruce bark, foxtail and blueberry leaves all infused together. All of these plants can be eaten straight from the forest or field, as long as you remembering the restrictions of the river rights and the immersion of goat’s rue when it is close to the ground.

I believe that we have a genetic memory for nature’s basic tastes that goes back to the Stone Age. It often shows on the face of a first-time hookah taster. It’s like a light bulb goes on in your forehead: ‘wow, this is what my body has been waiting for all my life!’ Just one bite can make you an addict for the rest of your life.

Reason 3. Nutritional value of wild plants

The nutritional value of salad-like wild plants vary (and therefore it is difficult to give them a “product description”), but wild greens collected from a healthy natural environment can have ten times more nutritional compounds compared to store-bought greens. Our bodies need more nourishing content, and even a small amount of self-collected natural superfoods can boost your system with special nutrients that you’d have a hard time buying!

Superfoods are defined by their nutrient density in relation to weight, and following the horta lifestyle we have dozens of superfoods all around us – and for free of international imports! Wild foods faithfully wait for their collectors every year, even if they never come. Or even if they come with bad intentions with a jar of poison in their hand. Still, the wild vegetables return faithfully every year, and are usually available from April to December, depending on the location. Isn’t that amazing? Horta collectors can also freeze, dry and can their wild treats for the rest of the year. At my Christmas table, we include pre-frozen chopped wild horseradish as a side dish that everyone loves!

I won’t go into the abundant health benefits here, but I will quote the director of an American cancer clinic that specialises in nutrition- oriented treatments, who during his trip to Finland sad: “I believe that due to the special effect of the clean air and the northern sun, the nettles, dandelions, goat’s milkweed, milk thistle and hogweed that grow wild in Finland are almost the best food that any person on the whole planet can put into his mouth”.

Reason 4. A sense of security and an emergency reserve

Wild plants have been used as survival food for ages. Horta can be a lifesaver, even in times of social emergency. In my opinion, it is impossible to starve to death in Finland if you have even rudimentary horticultural skills.

You don’t need to know everything about mushrooms and berries, there’s plenty of other food! Many plants have the same amount of protein as soybeans and in superfoods, even small amounts are enough to keep the body functioning and resistant, which is especially important in times of emergency.

For the last 20 years I have trained thousands of people in horticulture skills, written numerous guidebooks, created online courses and teaching programs that enable horticulture instructors to safely inspire people to use and preserve wild vegetables on a daily basis. I am pleased to note how, after a quiet start to the millennium, educational institutions and others have begun to adopt the trend with enthusiasm. They talk about wild plants not only as a traditional activity, but also as a modern and attractive thing for young people to do- even as a tax-free source of income if you are unemployed.

Reason 5. Horta invites you to go into nature and open your eyes

Check out also: Edible wild plants – how to use them safely?

Everyone that joins our wild edible plants walks says:  “Now I look at nature with completely new eyes. Here you don’t even dare to step anywhere,  you see food everywhere!”

Many studies have shown the benefits of spending time moving in nature. The healing power of spending time in a natural environment is well documented- especially the benefits of reducing stress,  lifting people’s mood and a strengthening our immune system. 

Finding nature’s treasure trove and learning how to use it is a hugely valuable skill that you master, and then pass on to your children as an earth-saving legacy from an early age.

Jouko Kivimetsä
Horta farmer and trainer. From 1998 onwards Jouko has been working on the different ways of using wild plants as superfood nutrition and ailments, how to make products out of them, how to teach to large audiences. Jouko became the leading developer and teacher in these themes in Finland and growingly also internationally.