We already handed the crown for the most Finnish flavour to the birch leaf a while ago. However, blueberries (bilberries) or mustikka, as they are known in Finnish, come in a close second. While the birch leaf is indeed a very unique flavour found in many products, few things are more popular in the land of the midnight sun than this magical berry that grows in Finland’s vast forests every year.
Finns love blueberries and every other one forages for berries and other goodies in the forests. It is a popular past-time and recreational activity that not only promises tasty things to eat but is actually good for your health as spending the day outside in nature while picking stuff is a really good workout (and spending time in the forest in general is good for us). However, not only locals enjoy roaming the forests. It is very popular among tourists, too, who come to Finland, among other reasons, for the pristine nature, its produce and the experiences connected to berry picking.
Blueberries have a natural sweetness to them, a big reason why people like them so much. However, they are also known for their health benefits: they have beneficial effects for our immune system and our metabolism, eye and brain health and memory and contain plenty of vitamins (C and E), minerals (zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium and manganese), antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols and dietary fibre. Tasty and healthy? That’s a pretty good combination.
Just to give you an idea how popular these berries are, look at our shop. Finland’s favourite berry can be found in a variety of our products. There is pure blueberry powder, blueberry powder mixed with birch sugar (xylitol), dried blueberries as well as two different snack bars, raw chocolate and spelt fibre supplement flavoured with blueberries. That’s quite a bunch even for a small shop like ours. And similar to the birch leaf, you can find it in many more products in Finland, including natural cosmetics like soap.
Fresh wild berries are of course the best option. They are more nutritious than cultivated berries and especially those berries growing under the midnight sun are known to be highly nutritious. But since that is only possible during the short-lived berry season in the summer, dried berries and berry powders are a good option for off-season consumption. These products typically retain almost all of the health benefits of the fresh berries and can be store year-round to survive until the forests start producing fresh berries again.
Elina & Tim
Try our fudge recipe not only with blackcurrant but also with blueberry powder. We tried it a while ago and it is wonderful!
When you are craving for something sweet, it’s always better to make something that is also good for you without white sugar. One of our new favourites is blackcurrant fudge, a little healthier version of traditional fudge. The berries give it a nice Finnish twist (we just love to put berries into everything). It does not contain any white sugar and is raw food, which means that it is not heated to preserve the vitamins and antioxidants. We have to say that the fudge is quite filling, so a couple of pieces will satisfy your sweet tooth! The recipe was created by Anu Kankajärvi of Aurikoinen Olo (link in Finnish).
1dl coconut butter (aka coconut manna)
8 dates (without stones)
½ tbsp. blackcurrant powder (or any other berry powder)
¼ tsp. real vanilla powder
Elina & Tim
Elina presents her mother’s chanterelle sauce recipe
It’s again one of my favorite seasons: mushrooms. Time to enjoy some delicious chanterelles. Earlier this year it looked like the hot and dry weather had taken a toll on the amount of mushrooms in the Finnish forests. But things seem to have changed and the chanterelles are popping out everywhere like… wellm mushrooms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to my regular foraging spot to pick the chanterelles this year, so I bought some on the market square in Turku (kauppatori, in Finnish).
Typically we can find this so-called “ gold of the forest” in the backyard of my family’s countryside house. Since I can remember, we have picked them aplenty and my mother turned them into a delicious creamy sauce. Her recipe is super simple and in my opinion, that’s right. A sauce does not require many ingredients because the mushrooms’ itself taste already so heavenly. I want to share my mother’s recipe with you - this time seasoned with some dried nettle powder.
200g of chanterelle mushrooms
2dl thick cream or plant based alternative
½ dl of dried nettle powder
Butter (or vegetable oil)
Serve with cooked potatoes or pasta.
Enjoy or: hyvää ruokahalua!
Being close to nature is an essential part of the Finnish identity. Unsurprisingly, in a country ruled by endless forests and placid lakes, natural flavours are abundant and ingredients provided by nature are deeply ingrained in the Finnish cuisine, have found their ways into natural cosmetics and, to a degree, even into sauna culture. Especially Finnish food is connected to ingredients such as berries and herbs. But what is a real, a very Finnish flavour? A Finnflavour, so to speak?
The flavour that people usually associate with Finland is probably that of the wild blueberry (bilberry), followed by other berries and maybe even some herbs. However, Finns have another all-time favourite that is much less known but, we argue, the most Finnish one of them all: it’s the birch leaf (in Finnish koivunlehti), a real gem that remains somewhat a secret outside the country’s borders.
Birch leaves have a very particular taste and smell. If you ever had the chance, you will never forget their unique flavour. In Finland, birch leaves are used to make tea, young leaves are common, tasty ingredients for salads and you can even find them in snack bars and other products. Cosmetics also make plenty of use of birch leaves. Soap, shampoo and other hygiene products such as herbal baths for the feet and body are common items that contain the leaves. What might seem like a little obsession is explained and fully justified by the special twist they give to them.
There is more, though. Birch leaves play a role in traditional sauna culture in Finland (in Russia as well). Branches with birch leaves are used by sauna goers to gently slap their skin with to improve blood circulation (Finns know this as vasta or vihta). Using them makes a sauna visit truly Finnish and perfect.
And while we are talking about birches: the tree has other uses as well. Birch sugar (aka xylitol) is harvested from the tree, birch sap (or birch water) is a popular drink and ingredient in Finland and elsewhere and the bark is used in all sorts of arts and handicrafts (even shoes are made from the bark). Traditionally, birch wood is also an important firewood. To top it off, the silver birch (Betula pendula) is Finland’s national tree.
As you can see, Finns and birches have a long and intimate relationship. That’s why we say: the birch is the most Finnish flavour (and thing) there is.
Elina & Tim
Those of you who know us are well aware just how much we love stinging nettle. And before those of you who are just getting to know our website think: “Wait, what? Nettle? That nasty, stinging weed?” we say: please have a seat and read on. You’ll be very surprised what you can do with this incredible plant.
Nettles are still a rather unusual and exotic herb to many. Most people associate them with pain and don’t like the fact that they are growing everywhere. However, nettles are a healthy plant full of nutrients and minerals and can be used in a variety of ways. That’s why we are trying really hard to make people look at them with new eyes and ignore their bad reputation.
From simply adding dried nettle as a spice to salads or omelettes to either self-made or ready-to-use pesto to tea, the ways to use nettles are manifold. Probably our favourite way to use it is as an additional spice in salad. We simply sprinkle the dried nettle on top of our salads and dig in. However, we also love turning it into pesto (nettle pesto is our second favourite ingredient to use in pesto after coriander).
Nettles contain little carbohydrates and protein but they are full of vitamins and minerals. 100 grams of nettle contain 33% of the daily requirement of iron, 71% of calcium as well as 333% of vitamin C. That is pretty good for a plant that grows right in front our noses in abundance.
We recommend picking nettles yourself (with gloves, of course) and drying them at home. A good way to do it is to string a bunch of them together, hang them somewhere where they don’t disturb you and let them dry by themselves over a few days. Then you grind them to powder and keep them in a glass jar with a lid.
This sounds already much better than “nasty weed”, right? Enjoy!
Elina & Tim
Important note: pregnant women should not consume nettle tea as it can negatively affect pregnancy.
It’s no news that Finland is, among many things, a country of coffee lovers. The infatuation with the dark brew has led to the birth of many small coffee roasteries and cafés in recent years and the trend is showing no signs of leveling out. In celebration of Finland’s addiction to coffee, we are very happy to share seven tips from Tanja from the wonderful coffee roaster Mokkapuu on how to brew a great cup of coffee.
Tip #1: Make sure that the you use only clean tools and remove all greasy stains in your coffee maker. Always use a separate cup for measurements, never use the coffee can.
Tip #2: The quality of the water you use is crucial. Spring water is better than tap water because the latter often is not perfectly pure.
Tip #3: When making filter coffee, use white filters. It is also a good idea to wet the filter a bit before use to get rid of possible off-tastes.
Tip #4: If you don’t drink coffee often, store the beans in a freezer or in a cool and dry place in its own package.
Tip #5: If you are new to coffee drinking, Tanja recommends medium roast coffees. Generally, dark coffees are better for your stomach and less acidic. If you love milk coffee, coffees such as Mokkapuu’s Morning Espresso is a good option.
Tip #6: A good measure is 7.5g of coffee per cup.
Tip #7: Enjoy your cup of coffee in good company or out in the nature
Now it’s up to you to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Good luck!
Elina & Tim
One of Elina’s favorite childhood recipes is a semolina porridge made by her mother and we want to share this simple recipe with you today. We have twisted it a little bit to get rid off the white sugar.
Porridge in many forms has been an essential part of the Finnish diet for centuries. And why not: they are not only filling and give you lots of energy but also healthy. Dark semolina, for instance, contains lots of fiber.
Porridge can be eaten either hot or cold and both taste equally good. To spruce up the porridge, berries are often added. As some berries can be pretty sour, it’s a good idea to balance it with some sweetener. White sugar is of course one option (my mother used it when Elina was a child) but if you want to turn it into a healthier version, Finnish birch sugar is a great option. For this recipe, we used some birch sugar with lingonberries from Helsinki Wildfoods.
Recipe for 4-5 persons
2dl frozen, fresh or freeze-dried lingonberries
2,5dl (organic) dark semolina
1,5l of water
1dl of birch sugar or some other sweetener (e.g. coconut palm sugar)
Enjoy with cold milk, cream or a vegan alternative
Also try with any other berries such as raspberries or strawberries.
Elina & Tim
Today we have another tasty recipe for you: granola with healthy and tasty dried blueberries from Kaskein. It’s easy to prepare and tastes fantastic. Jelena of Schnabula Rasa (link in German) has created this recipe for us and we are very happy to share it here with you.
30g shaved almonds
20g coconut chips
½ tsp. salt
60g coconut oil
80g honey, agave syrup or maple syrup
30g freeze-dried berries
2 tbsp. additional coconut chips
Store the granola in an air tight container.
Have fun trying it for yourself!
Elina & Tim
Try out Schnabula Rasa's other Finnflavours-recipe: nettle pesto.
Today we have a recipe for you that the Austrian blogger Schnabula Rasa (link in German) has developed for us using nettle powder by Helsinki Wildfoods. We are real pesto fans and try out new ingredients quite often and nettles have become one of our favourites. We are very happy that Jelena from Schnabula Rasa created a very own one for us. It’s really easy to do!
4 tbsp of dried nettle
1 hand full of baby spinach
80ml olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp of agave syrup
1 ½ tsp of salt
80g ground almonds
Have fun trying it for yourself!
Elina & Tim
Try out Schnabula Rasa's other Finnflavours-recipe: blueberry granola.
As we are leading a very busy life with a little toddler and our company, it became even more relevant for us to take care of ourselves. Especially since our son was born, the nights haven’t been the same. So these days we really appreciate a good night’s sleep and thanks to our son’s grandparents, we can do that every now and then. After such a night you truly appreciate what a blessing it is to sleep without interruptions. Here is a short list of the things we do to keep ourselves healthy and fit.
1. When it comes to diet, we naturally try to lead a healthy lifestyle. We do eat sweets and other good stuff every once in a while but we keep it limited. We believe that indulgences make life much more interesting and not having too many restrictions is essential. Luckily, these days you don’t have to stuff yourself with excessive white sugar to indulge yourself. White sugar is actually what we both are trying to avoid. We also eat lots of vegetarian meals and have reduced our consumption of red meat dramatically over the last years. However, we eat a lot of fish. Like Finns.
2. Nature plays a big part in our wellbeing. Being in a forest away from the crowds and traffic is one of the most relaxing things we know and research suggests that spending lots of time out in the nature is having a dramatic effect on your overall health. We are blessed living in Finland where you don’t have to travel very far to be able to find space for yourself. Even in our bustling capital Helsinki you are never far from the nature, a fact that the city is famous for. In our hometown Turku one of our favourite places in the island Ruissalo with lots of forest, a little beach and (of course) a public sauna.
3. Elina would describe herself as a person who exercises irregularly while Tim is more strict about his routines. Elina enjoys doing yoga while Tim is an avid runner and swimmer. We don’t own a car and that’s why we walk and cycle almost everywhere while making use of public transportation if need be. One of the great advantage of not having a car (and living in the fourth floor without a lift) is that it keeps you fit and adds regular exercise to your daily life.
4. Enough rest is key. Although we don’t always succeed, we try to make sure we have enough time to rest and unwind. Sometimes that means having our son spend the night with his grandparents. But the opposite is also true: one of the best ways to do empty your head and let go of work and other stressful things is to play with your kids every day, to see them laugh, run around and fall asleep next to them.
5. Then there’s of course the thing Finland is the most famous for: the sauna. We hit the sauna at least once a week. Studies show the beneficial effect on health and wellbeing and it is the key to a happy and healthy life in Finland. One of the best things to do while using a sauna is to combine it with a relaxing dip in a nearby lake or the sea, no matter the season. Actually, ice hole swimming is one of Tim’s most favourite things to do in winter and he recommends more eagerly to everyone than most Finns. You should try it, too!
Elina and Tim
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