Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, is the second most popular destination of international tourists in Finland after Helsinki in terms of bed nights. Several factors have contributed to this reputation, including Santa Claus, the clean Arctic nature, the Northern Lights and more recently the high accessibility and safety.
With 9 million hectares, Lapland is as well the world’s largest contiguous area certified as organic for wild food collection (1).
In a research project funded by the EU we studied the content of phenolics, as health-promoting compounds, in natural products collected in different parts of Finland. The environmental growing conditions in Finland differ considerably from south to north, ranging from southern boreal to northern boreal and subarctic climatic vegetation zones. Consequently, the quality and quantity of phenolic compounds are expected to differ among samples growing in different parts of the country.
We studied the content of phenolics, as health-promoting compounds, in natural products collected in different parts of Finland.
The project focused on two non-wood forest products actively collected in Finland and whose demand has been increasing regularly:
- Bilberry leaves, mainly exported to the Asiatic market and used as herbal tea
- Juniper shoots, used as an additive in cosmetic food industries.
The harsh growing environment brings an added-value to natural products
Our results showed clear trends of higher content of anti-oxidative compounds in samples collected in high (Lapland) versus lower latitudes (southern Finland).
In bilberry leaves, higher total soluble phenolic content and antioxidant capacity were measured in relation to increasing latitude but as well altitude: all phenolic groups were best correlated with a model that included both latitude and altitude (3).
In juniper shoots, significant increases in the content of soluble phenolics but also terpenoids were measured with increasing latitude, with twice as much of each in northern locations as in southern locations (4). Opposite to bilberry leaves, changes in phenolics were best explained by latitude alone. In both species, flavonols (mainly quercetin glucosides) were strongly affected by the latitude.
The higher content of secondary metabolites found in bilberry leaves or juniper shoots in the subarctic and north boreal sites, as compared to the south boreal sites, may reflect the adaptation of wild natural products to northern growing conditions.
The specific growing environment in Lapland brings an added-value to natural products collected in the certified organic collecting area of Lapland.
(1) Reeta Sipola. Lumen 1/2016 (in Finnish)
(2) “Development of natural forest products from Lapland/ Lapin metsien luonnontuotealan raaka-aineiden hyödyntäminen”, 2005–2006, PI: Rainer Peltola (Funding: European Regional Development Fund/EAKR)
(3) Martz, F., Jaakola, L., Julkunen-Tiitto, R. et al. J Chem Ecol (2010) 36: 1017. doi:10.1007/s10886-010-9836-09
(4) Martz, F., Peltola, R., Fontanay, S., Duval, R., Julkunen-Tiitto, R., Stark, S. Agric. Food Chem. (2009) 57 (20), pp 9575–9584. DOI: 10.1021/jf902423k