Mushroom foraging in Sipoonkorpi National Park

Hunting for mushrooms in Finnish forests is a peaceful and unique pastime. Food Materials Science Research Group, along with family members and research collaborators experienced a wonderful day in Sipoonkorpi National Park. We were joined by Milla Koponen who is a self-taught mushroom identifier and has been fascinated by the world of fungus since she was a teenager. A major part of her youth was spent living in a little village in Eastern Finland, so the forest and the many mushrooms hiding within have played a great role in her life.

Walking through the damp forest, our eye catches a glimpse of white, golden yellow, and brownish mushrooms at the foot of an old birch. There is no general rule on how to recognize edible mushrooms from the poisonous ones, and to classify them requires extensive knowledge and experience about mushrooms. Therefore, we decided to pick samples of almost all the mushrooms, with the exception of the smallest of mushrooms, we encountered on our trek. After two hours of foraging, we gathered together at a campfire to enjoy grilled sausages (and mustard) while listening to music served by a professional musician, Riku Turpeinen. During this time, Ms. Koponen taught many of us to identify specific edible mushrooms, and how to cook them.

No matter what types of mushrooms and how many mushrooms we picked, the hunted mushrooms were so precious to us as it was the first time for many of us to have the opportunity to pick mushrooms in this foragers paradise. A big thank you to Jutta Varis who organized the trip, we had such a nice time enjoying Finnish nature, learning how to identify mushrooms, and particularly the delicious mushroom meals we created with the edible species we returned home with.

Picture from left to right:

Relaxing time at the campfire site with grilled sausage and music served by Riku Turpeinen after two hours foraging for mushrooms in the forest.

The identification and classification of hunted mushrooms with the help by Milla Koponen.

The tasty edible mushrooms including porcini mushrooms, several types of brittlegill mushrooms, and common puffball mushrooms. Findings also included salmon coral mushrooms which were not edible but a fun discovery as it indeed looks like coral.

Freshpack – summary

Freshpack was a Business Finland project that aimed to develop and commercialize an active packaging technology that prevents premature spoilage of fresh produce. This project ended in August 2021 and despite of Covid-19 constraints and other technical challenges we succeeded to show the technology’s capacity to increase the shelf life of berries. We also managed efficiently produce an active material using a spray dryer

We have worked closely with Finnish operators throughout the food distribution chain to identify critical points, that are integral to maintain the quality of fresh products in a commercial environment. In addition to Finland, Freshpack has attracted global interest among operators in the food distribution chain, which shows that there is a real demand for our technology. We have selected a few interesting funding options which will be targeted to develop Freshpack technology further prior to commercialization. The future development will be focused on the management of key reactions, optimization of ingredients, and the manufacturing process which would help us to better answer to the needs defined by our partners within their commercial environment. During the Freshpack project, we also defined the pathway required to get our technology accepted into the European Union’s list of authorized active and intelligent materials.

Although we didn’t manage to produce a minimum viable product within the scope of this project, we all are pleased and driven by the results of the Freshpack project. Stay tuned, we’ll be back!

Mamata Bhattarai (PhD) was awarded the inaugural best dissertation prize by The Finnish Natural Resources Research Foundation

The awarded thesis was titled;


Mamata was presented by the foundation with the 10,000€ award for the doctoral thesis that best advance’s the foundations goal at the annual festive gathering held at Demo in Helsinki. She completed her PhD at the Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki in December 2020 under the supervision of Associate Professor Kirsi Mikkonen.

Renewable and biodegradable plant polysaccharides, such as wood hemicelluloses are envisioned to be used as future raw materials in consumer products, including food or pharmaceuticals. Mamata’s research explored softwood hemicelluloses from spruce (galactoglucomannans; GGM). GGM obtained from different recovery approaches are currently finding applications as emulsifiers and stabilizers of dispersed systems. Their associative properties are affected by the recovery approach since it influences purity and intrinsic characteristics (e.g., molar mass, degree of substitution). The novelty of Mamata’s study findings lies in linking the solution properties of aqueous wood hemicelluloses with their functionality in emulsions, namely, interfacial morphology and stability. Understanding the impact of the GGM recovery approach on its associative behavior, currently limited, is essential to comprehend the stabilization mechanism of GGM in dispersed systems as well in the expansion of its functional applications

The most important finding from this study is that polysaccharide “solubility” plays an important role in interfacial structures and emulsion stability. The former can be tailored with recovery procedures, which provides a unique opportunity to fabricate polysaccharide-based particles. Currently, novel biomaterials are being developed from wood biomass. The findings of this study contributed to the characterization of GGM’s structure at a nanometric scale, thereby enhancing its scope for future applications. These findings would also be relevant in existing operations of paper and pulping industries, as well as for aspiring biorefineries in identifying optimal GGM recovery approach.

The Food Material Science Group would like to warmly congratulate Dr. Mamata Bhattarai for her outstanding contribution to the field during her early research career and look forward to tracking her progress into the future.

Publications arising from Mamata’s thesis work

  1. Bhattarai M, Kontro I, Sulaeva I, Valoppi F, Potthast A, Mikkonen KS. Polymerparticle features of polysaccharides determine emulsion stability and interfacial morphology.
  2. Bhattarai M, Sulaeva I, Pitkänen L, Kontro I, Tenkanen M, Potthast A, Mikkonen KS. Colloidal features of softwood galactoglucomannans-rich extract. Carbohydr. Polym. 2020a, 241:116368
  3. Bhattarai M, Valoppi F, Hirvonen SP, Hietala S, Kilpelainen PO, Aseyev V, Mikkonen KS. Time-dependent self-association of spruce galactoglucomannans depends on pH and mechanical shearing. Food Hydrocoll. 2020, 102:105607
  4. Bhattarai M, Pitkanen L, Kitunen V, Korpinen R, Ilvesniemi H, Kilpelainen PO, Lehtonen M, Mikkonen KS. Functionality of spruce galactoglucomannans in oilin-water emulsions. Food Hydrocoll. 2019, 86:154-161.

The Finnish Natural Resources Research Foundation Award information


To encourage young doctoral students to engage in research related to the sustainable use of Finland’s natural resources, the Foundation annually presents a €10,000 award to a doctoral thesis that best advances the Foundation’s goals. The foundation evaluates nominations based on The award-winning doctoral thesis must be of an internationally high standard and create opportunities to develop the utilization of Finland’s natural resources in compliance with the principles of sustainable development. The thesis must have been approved by a Finnish university. The evaluation criteria include the scientific-technical novelty and commercial potential of the results, as well as the advancement of the principles of sustainable development and resource-efficiency in the use of natural resources.