Easter decorations

The Christian Easter tradition is also celebrated in Finland, the word “Pääsiäinen” (Easter), meaning end of fast, the 40 day period prior to Easter Sunday.  Palm Sunday to Good Friday, and the celebrated Easter Sunday. In the Christian church as the most important celebration day is the Resurrection Sunday.

There are many types of traditional Easter decorations e.g; Easter rye grass, painted egg shells, willow baskets, decorated flowering willow branches with bunny tails.

Young Children (4-12yrs) in some areas go door knocking to bless their neighbors for the coming spring/year, they are rewarded usually with some lollies/biscuits or a few cent donation.

Two opposed traditions during the Easter weekend.

It is the opposite of what the custom of the Trolls was back in the dark ages, apparently the story goes that there were witches that went around during the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, because there was a belief that during that time landowners pets and live stock was susceptible to curses, so they gave it their best to punish the landowners pets and live stock.  Mostly they were outcast single women on the fringe of society and also bitter of their misfortune.

Pictures of flowering Easter willow bunny tails.

 

 

 

 

Easter food

Mämmi (Maam-me) is a traditional Easter dish that was eaten in Finland as early as the 12 century.  It is also mentioned in cook books that date back to the 16 century.

It first apperaed in the South West and on the West coast of Finland, where the Catholic church was established.  It was not until the 17 century when mämmi made it’s way to the north and central Finland.  There are divided opinions about mämmi also in Finland, some enjoy it, others loath it.

It was a food dish used in the Catholic church during the Easter fasting, meat and dairy products were not consumed on Fridays, so Mämmi became the Easter Friday food and part of the Easter cultural tradition in Finland.

It is said to symbolize the unleavened bread that the Jews eat during the Passover.  Mämmi is made by using rye flour, rye malt, water and sweetened with molasses, and seasoned with salt.  When the mixture is prepared it is allowed to mature and sweeeten naturally for many hours. It is like a wet rye porridge sweetened with molasses, then the final stage is made by baking it an oven like a pudding/casserole.  It is consumed either hot or cold, with milk/cream like a pudding.

Mämmi has a long history and it is part of the Finnish Easter food culture, it is also healthy to eat, it was part of a religious discipline in fasting during the easter time.  Dispite it’s innocent history, and cultural significance, Mämmi is often discriminated and scoffed at similar as the  Vegemite in Australia.  Vegemite and Mämmi are very similar in color, they are both dark brown.

Crossing cultural borders does often bring surprises in ethnic cuisine discovery, and without the necessary knowledge, and the story/beginning/tradition, then it just may seem odd to have brown porridge that is baked in an oven.  Rye has been very much part of the Finnish culture, there are many good reason for that, one of them is the health benefits of eating wholemeal rye bread in their farming/forrestry/agricultural communities during meal breaks.

 

 

Sheep: wool felt

Sheep have been a valuable resource in the human history.  The use of felt began early in the East-Turkey area, early as 4000 BC.  Also in the Ancient Roman culture, clothing and  felt hats were worn by the males.

Sheep wool for clothing, felt boots and blankets were discovered to have fabulous insulation properties to retain the low human body temperatures, and keep out the bitter cold of the Nordic winters.  Thick felt boots are very effective against extreme cold, even as low as -40’C.  Boots are very light to walk in, they were used both indoors and outdoors. Wool was spun and used for items like; socks, jumpers, pants, gloves, mittens and other textiles.

Animal husbandry sheep and wool textiles industry in the Nordic region dates back to the Viking era, there are real evidence and finds of the the early wool textile industry.

Early Wool Industry.

Finn sheep and Swedish Mountain cattle and the Icelandic horse, date back to the prehistoric animal husbandry.

Early animal farming in the Nordic region.

It is very likely that in many families/small tribes sheep were viewed as too valuable to be killed for the dinner table, until the numbers had increased sufficiently to a large level. Sheep wool products are still regarded as valuable natural resources, both in spun wool products and in felt products, and it’s not likely to change any time soon.

Picture of wool products.

 

 

 

Potatoes

The days are getting warmer and the piles of snow are receding continuously.  Now is the time take some potatoes out of the cellar into the day light, by placing them on  a damp hessian sack they will start to sprout within one week.  As a precaution you can keep them under cover, or cover them with suitable material during the night while the frost is still likely to strike the sprouting potatoes.

Preparing the garden soil for planting potatoes.

Prepare the garden by turning the soil, this is also usually done in the previous autumn.  Use a rake to even out any clumps of dirt, and remove sticks and large rocks.  Form/shape straight line furrows about 50 cm apart, and about 10 cm deep and 10 cm wide.  The length in proportion to the potato yield required.

There are also other options for growing potatoes in pots and containers.  See the  following link.  Potato Growing at home.

Once the seed potatoes  have sprouted (sprouts about 3 cm long) place them in the furrows by pushing them in at various depths (that way there is more space for them to grow).  Then build up a mound over the planted potatoes, from both sides of the furrow, a raised potato furrow, it drains well of excess water, and warms up quick during the sunny morning.  The planted potatoes need about 10-15 cm of soil over them, to keep them out of direct sunlight and to maintain moisture during the growing of roots and the shoots.

Water the newly planted potato furrows, and maintain the moisture level according to the weather and the soil structure.  After a while the raised furrows tend to sink under the watering, therefore continue to build/raise dirt to the center from both sides of furrows.

Protecting the potatoes from green feeding animals.

If the garden is located in the Nordic wilderness, then a boundary fence is needed.  Wild animals will dig up the furrows and help them selves to the newly planted potatoes, sooner or later.

For pictures of New potatoes, see the following link.

New Potatoes.

 

Carrots: Carotenoids

Carrot is the most cultivated and consumed vegetables in Finland.  It’s roots go back to the the west Asia in Afghanistan, that is where the carrot is believed to have first sprouted and grown.  The ancient carrots were a different color than what we consume today, they were a deep purple color.  Farming of purple carrots with the yellow carrots, brought about a color blending, and in 1400 the first orange colored carrots appeared.

Carrots have nutritional benefits for the heart and the eyes.

Carrots came to the Nordic region during the 1500 from Holland to Denmark. Carrots
have lots of antioxidant compounds so therefore health benefits.  They are an excellent source of pro-vitamin A Carotenes, they help to fight against free radicals.  To eat carrots is very good health choice, it contains many nutritional benefits for the heart and your eyes vision (beta carotenes).

The carrots are also a very good source of ; C and K vitamins and dietary fiber.

Carrots are a good source of minerals as well; potassium, vitamin
B6 (pyridoxine), manganese, molybdenum, vitamin
B1 (thiamin), vitamin B3 (niacin), phosphorus, magnesium, and folate.

Freshly grated carrot juice was also used as medicine for children, e.g. Coughs, worm prevention and cuts.  Carrot juice was also believed to be a purifying agent for the blood and the Cardio-vascular system as it written in the 1832 cook books.

After consuming carrots the body can store some of the vitamin A, if eating a lot of carrots the color orange will be visible on the persons outer skin.  The old saying ” you are what you eat” may be true in more ways than one.  Is it true than people who grow (and eat) olives end up looking like olives?  Also people who grow (and eat) red apples end up looking like healthy red apples.  So what do you want to end up looking like? It’s your choice?

Pictures of carrots.

 

 

 

Onions winter storage.

I decided to explore more on the subject of Onions because if you lived in the Nordic region during the 19 century, then at this time of the year (spring) there would be abundant supply of onions left in the cellar storage.  Onions keep well if the storage area is not too moist for mold to grow.  They are naturally well packaged with layer upon layer, and also the dry outer layer, sealing the core from intruders.  They are a robust root vegetable from the Allium family, similar to the leeks and garlic.

Onions are known to have originated from the Asian region, and transported to Greece and Egypt.

There are ancient drawings and hieroglyphics using onion symbols in Egypt, they were also used as medicine to cure ailments, virus, sickness and disease.

Onions were given high regard in many different ethnic cuisines.  In ancient Rome it was very popular, also in Turkey-Constantinople it was prepared for gough ailments, a concoction was boiled using: leeks, sugar and honey.

In Scandinavia Onions is also used to describe an older wise person of the family, as the onion of the family.

In Iceland there is the Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems, that give high regard to onions.  In Norway the expresion of joy with in the community, is referred to as the onion of the community.   In Finland some of the earliest house hold recipe books record the use of onions in the 18 century.

In India the Brahmins taught that if one want’s to get wise, they should eat more of onions, and in Tibet they were taught to eat garlic as a preventative against cancer, and to chew garlic would cure any gum infections.  The nutrition value of an onion;  Vitamin A, C, Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, calories 60/150g, and also fibre.

When growing onions it is important to change the seed stock every 4 years, to avoid stock loss through vegetable disease, onion fly, fungi and molds.

Onions were consumed raw in salads, they were used in soups and sauces, they were used in the stuffing of game meat and game birds.  Some of the most popular use of raw onions in the Nordic region of Finland was the mushroom salad and the Baltic herring salad.  Also the ever popular Gravelax salmon (salt cured salmon) onion was a popular condiment, raw onions and cured salmon on rye bread.

To see pictures of onions at a local farmers market, click on the link below.

Farmers markets.

 

 

 

Extending bread fiber

At times of severe famine in Finland late 1500-1600, the bread flour was extended with the use of wheat chaff, straw and the inner layer of pine tree bark.  The ratio would usually start at about 10:1 (flour:bark meal).

The harvesting was done in spring time, the method of harvesting was done by making a vertical cut on the tree bark, then cutting a line across a the top, and the bottom.  The tree bark would then be gently levered open until access to the 2mm thick white flesh of the inner tree bark was made.  Then it was removed and the tree bark returned to the original position.  I guess it was tied tight with some string, to ensure that the tree bark grew back tight against the tree trunk and protected it.  If not then it would almost be like “ring barking (360′)” a tree, meaning a slow death of the tree.

The inner layer of the bark was dried and later milled as bread flour.

  The bread bark meal has a high mineral content in the following; zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron.

Also contains vitamins and high in fibre,  the energy content is very low. The “Pettu” bread is still made in some places for historic and tourism purpose.  One such place is the Kilen Museum.

http://sydaby.eget.net/swe/kindex.htm

Other such place where the bread can be purchased is at the Salla War Museum.  When i visited the War Museum at Salla in 2011, i did actually purchase some “Pettu” bread.  This particular bread was made into thin crisp bread 20cm disks.  The bread package contained some 20 rounds of crisp Pettu bread.  There was a slight aroma and flavor of a pine tree, other than that it was like eating regular crackers with a cheese plate, the cost was about 5€ per package.

It was a novelty experience tasting and eating “Pettu” bread, knowing that in the severe famines of the late 1500-1600.

Many improvisations were made at that time to extend food ingredients to save lives and to avoid hunger.  Despite the improvisations and food extensions many thousands of people died of starvation.

For more information on the Salla Museum click on the link below.

http://www.sallaregion.com/salla-museum-lapland.html

 

 

 

 

Traditional water wells and wood shingle roofs

Most obvious sings of the changing season from winter to spring is the warmth and the  running water.

When the sun is melting the snow and ice, there is the inevitable drip… drip… of waterWater dripping from the melting snow and ice from the roof of the buildings and puddles of water along the roads and path ways.

The traditional log cabins use to have conventional style materials for the roof, they initially used peat and later on used wood shingles.  Peat was readily available from the many swamps that are common in the Nordic area, it provided protection from rain and the snow, and also was useful as an insulation material to keep the warmth of the fire inside the log cabins.  peat was piled on top of a wooden frame, that supported the weight of the peat, and the weight of the rain/ snow and ice.

Autumn rains and the thaw of spring time would have caused some water leaks into the traditional house holds.

A leaking roof during the spring season would have also prompted spring cleaning and the re-orientation of furniture and storage.  Bears also are often forced to move out of their caves when there is the warming of weather and the snow starts to melt and often flooding the winter nest of a bear family (bear cubs are born during the winter hibernation, and find their own way to the nutritional source of their parent).

Traditional water wells in the Nordic region of Finland for practical reasons they were manually dug into the ground within a short walking distance from the farm house.

Depending on the  landscape, it could be 5-10 m deep.  A round hole straight down  until it reached the water ground level, if the ground was sandy, then there was clean natural filtered water available as required.  The top of the well was covered by a well platform and a lid cover, or it could be built upwards to stop animals or people falling into it during the dark.  The method of drawing water from a well was by lowering a wooden bucket by a rope.  Once the bucket sank, and was filled by water, then it would be drawn up either manually by hand, or by turning a drum hoist to bring the bucket up to the surface.

Pictures of a traditional well and s wood shingle roof, click on the link below.

http://vesajohnleino.photoshelter.com/gallery/Old-Nordic-Architecture/G0000LRz48ZnahUY/

 

 

Winter food storage

Winter food storage

Winter food storage is one thing that we as humans have developed more than any other types of animal, fish, and insects on the planet Earth, we are the most dependent and skilled in storing food.
The spring has arrived here in April 2011.  The migrating birds have started returning from their winter trip down south, their idea of storing food is in the seasons and regions where they know from experience that the environment in the right season will deliver to their satisfaction.  Sea gulls, ducks, swans and many other birds are gradually moving up towards north as the snow melts and the ice recedes from the seashore and the many lakes.  Many of the small birds that fly all the way from Africa to the Nordic region is because the mosquito’s are so plentiful in the far north marshes and swamps, they are not concerned with the concept of storing food, but rather going where the food is plentiful in the peak of the season.

The ducks are protected during the Spring season.  The shooting season for particular species of duck, opens in late autumn.  Swans are protected species, they were a threatened species in the 1940’s with only about 14 families of swans in the Finland area.  Since then they have increased and today there are hundreds of swan families that return each year, reputably they have the same mate for life.  The white swan’s appearance on calm water is symbolic of grace and purity.

Pictures of swans.

http://vesajohnleino.photoshelter.com/gallery/Scheduled-Flight-South/G0000OmzgDD77tlU/

Underground cellar

After the long winter the household supplies in the cellar, storing food: berries, juice concentrate, fruit and vegetables may be dwindling, and not much more stores left in the freezer.

There is still a long wait before the summer fruits are ready and the mushroom appear in autumn.  Four to five months to go until the berries appear in August, and five to six months for the mushrooms that grow in August-September-October.

Harvest season

Late Summer and Autumn, traditionally in Finland people prepare their own berry juice (red currants, black currants, bilberry), fruit jams (strawberry, raspberry, etc), and also store mushrooms, it is all about storing food when the fruits and vegetables are in season.

During the mushroom storing food season in September-October there are mushroom displays usually in the local farmers markets called the “Tori”, in Finland. The mushroom are put on display by the local Mushroom Club or by the Martta (Martha) association, last year at the mushroom display at Pori during the Herring festival markets in September, there was a display with 50-60 different types of mushroom, several samples of each type on a paper plate with a name and symbols, whether it was edible (stars) or inedible (death cross).  The rating was from 1 star to 4 stars (good to excellent), and 1 cross to 4 cross (poison to extreme).  The Staff volunteers that attend the mushroom displays are very knowledgeable about the local mushroom here in Finland, they can also advice on storing food.

Click below for pictures.

http://vesajohnleino.photoshelter.com/gallery/Herring-Festival/G0000FWCkpe6KVkE/

People that are new to the area or just starting to identify mushroom’s, can bring mushrooms that they have picked, and ask the staff to identify them.   Use precaution when picking mushrooms in a strange foreign region, often the innocent looking mushrooms (e.g. white color) are the toxic ones, even by handling them with bare hands can lead to poisoning, use rubber gloves for protection.

Here are some of the most sought after mushrooms:

Boletus edilus.

Leccinum versipelle.

Leccinum aurantiacum.

Chanterelles.

Cantharellus tubaeformis.

 

Berries: vegetable mushrooms

Berries: vegetable mushrooms

The Nordic region environment has provided fruit, berries and vegetables for thousands of years.  Nature provision has been a vital source of food with vitamins, minerals and life sustaining goodness for the people that pioneered and found their home early in the Nordic wilderness.  Seasonal changes were predictable, and sometimes also with variations of the fruit yields and temperatures.

Nature provides food

Nature with it’s diverse range of fruits, berries, grains, mushrooms, lentils, and vegetables is important food source for all the fauna that roam wild in the environment.
Birds and bears enjoy eating berries when they ripen during the summer time.  The berries in the Nordic region don’t appear/ripen all at the same time, Nature has it’s own time pace, e.g. there is a considerable time delay between e.g. strawberries-bilberries and Lingonberries. The flowering of the Bilberry and Lingonberry happens at a similar time frame, at least within the same 3-4 week period of each other (my observation), the wild strawberries flower very early in summer.

Nature also with the mushrooms in autumn time, the many different types of mushrooms appear in their own time frame, often when one type of mushrooms appear and stay for 3-4 weeks, then wilts and dissolves, then other types of mushrooms appear for about the same time duration (depending on the conditions at the time).  The pacing that appears in the growing seasons in nature is very practical for the space available, and from the fresh “provisions” aspect.

Berries: vegetable mushrooms everywhere

Nature supplies many types of berries in the Nordic region of Finland e.g; wild strawberry, raspberry,  bilberry, Lingonberry, burging-thorn berry ( Hippophaë rhamnoides), rowan berry, Cloudberry, Redcurrant, blackcurrant, and juniper berries, just to name the most common ones.

Traditional cultural custom is to gather and harvest berries and mushrooms during the summer/autumn season, as Nature provides.  The Lingon berries are very acidic, and have their own preservative qualities, they can be crushed and stored in a clean tub with a lid without any additives/added sugars, and it keeps well through out the autumn, winter, spring season (8 months).  Traditionally cellars were dug underground on a sloping hill side, with sufficient dirt over the top, and a double door to stop the fruit and vegetables freezing up during the winter time.  Also the snowfall on top (50-100cm) is a very affective insulation against temperatures dropping below -‘C.  Underground there is constant heat, rarely will the winter frost bite down below 1-2m depth. Hessian bags were also used to cover the potato bays, carrot could be covered with clean river/lake sand, and beetroots, turnips, peas and other were also stored in separate compartments of the cellar.  Root vegetables usually survived well especially if the cellar was made/designed using the knowledge and experience from the accumulated knowledge of the previous generations.

Strawberries, Bilberries, red currants, black currants were made into jams and into concentrated fruit juice which were bottled and stored in cellars.

Mushrooms were often preserved, the mushrooms could be blanched, sliced and with salt added they would keep well.  The use of  salt as a preservative, goes back a long time, it is universal in practice, preserving fish, meat and vegetables.

Berries were used extensively later on, in our recent modern times;  added to baked products, desserts and frozen goods, or sold as frozen products. Berries: vegetables mushrooms are a great source of minerals,  vitamins and general nutrition, as well as making the Natural outdoors world a brighter and more interesting place to explore and to discover, at times with real fruit incentives waiting around the corner.

Click below to see some pictures of Nordic berries.

http://vesajohnleino.photoshelter.com/gallery/Berry-season/G0000j2LpQQZQKcI/

 

ingredients, nutrition, customs, tradition and culture.