Tag Archives: nutrition

Lingonberries are super food, but only for the brave

The Finnish forests are now full of free-for-all superfood! The blueberry season is almost finished, but now it’s the perfect time to go and pick lingonberries for the winter!

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in my dear old hometown Tampere, always relaxed and nice. Also the weather was on our side, so this afternoon we decided to be brave and head to the forests.

Why brave? The challenge of picking lingonberries in the perfect spot that “only” my parents know is that one is not alone there. These hoods are packed with nasty deer flies (in Latin Lipoptena cervi, in Finnish hirvikärpänen), who come there because the forest is also popular among elks.

Someone would think we are exaggerating looking at the preparations below, but covering everything you can and closing your sleeves with some painter’s tape was only a clever and quite necessary precaution before entering the forest… as we immediately found out.

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Super stylish berry picker ;)

A super stylish berry picker… not! 😉

I don’t have photos of our little friends but after we returned to our car after 2 hours in the forest (and with 35 litres of lingonberries, all the buckets full!) we found these flies all over our bodies. Disgusting! Especially my dad seemed to be popular among them, as he’s the biggest one and these flies look for human heat.

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But it was worth it, the forest was beautiful and gave you some special energy. Looking and tasting the lingonberries now makes one feel satisfied. Tomorrow we’ll freeze the berries and enjoy extra vitamins in the winter.

What is a lingonberry? Wikipedia tells that lingonberries are native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America.

The berries contain many organic acids, vitamin C, A and B (B1, B2, B3), potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain phytochemicals that are thought to counteract urinary-tract infections, and the seeds are rich in  omega-3.

The amazing fact is that 90 per cent of this super food is left in the forests of Finland. And at the market lingonberries cost about 4 euros per litre. What a waste! Maybe the deer flies are too big a challenge for us.

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We want local food – but what is it?

Where do you come from, broiler?

Local food is a big thing in Finland these days. It’s truly in fashion, at least the trendy people of Helsinki constantly talk about how they want their food local.

New (expensive) stores selling local products pop-up all around the city. Like this one, Anton&Anton in Töölö.

Of course, the elder generations know better and have been consuming local food all their lives – without making a fuss about it. Still, I think this one is a good trend – as long as it doesn’t make the prices go up too much. And there is another major problem: nobody really knows what actually is local food?

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in Tampere and yesterday the local newspaper Aamulehti published an opinion about local food, which will surely provoke debate.

A guy called Visa Merikoski, the director of MTK Pirkanma, the local division of Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, claimed that soon even broiler from Brazil will be considered as local product, if the current trend continues.

He says that yes, local food interests the consumers a lot, and this is way so many supermarket chains are now thinking hard how to take the advantage of the trend. They sell images and when it comes to local food, the tendency is to lie – just a little bit.

Why? Because “at its worst” Polish wheat, Danish pork or Brazilian chicken might end up being local food as in most supermarkets one can already find products, whose origins are not announced correctly.

As consumers prefer local food, it seems logical that the main reason for hiding the origins is that they are not from near here… not even from Finland. In the end, the consumer believes he/she’s buying something he isn’t. This could be called cheating, or at least hiding the truth.

The thing is that everyone has the right to define local food from their own point of view. The consumers think that only small-scale production means local and they hate the idea of industrial production. Some connect local food to organic food.

The food production industry thinks that what counts is where the food is made, not from where the ingredients come from.

Then there are the farmers, who want ingredients that arrive from as near as possible – at least from inside Finland.

And the food production workers think that domestic work is very important.

One might guess that all these different ideas cause a mess when it comes to marketing local food.

(Finnish?) rye bread

For example, Mr. Visa tells that in one local supermarket they don’t tell the origins of a pork product, whose name refers to something 100% local (the product in this case was Tapolan ylikypsä kinkku). Probably it had been made right here in Tampere, but not telling it makes one suspicious… naturally.

So why don’t the producers tell the facts, when the information would attract more consumers??

One might also find bread – on the shelf reserved for local food – whose wheat has travelled a long way. The bakers tend to explain that domestic wheat is not always available, so they cannot commit to using it. This is not true: one can always get domestic wheat, it just might not be as cheap as the foreign ones.

In brief, every Finn has encountered products that carry a Finnish flag or other symbol referring to it being national, even if the product might be something totally different.

Does this mean it’s Finnish – really?

If we don’t talk about this openly, the same tendency will continue – and someday we won’t have any means to know from where our bread, salad, fruit, meat, fish or chocolate comes from. No thanks, we have the right to know – and to be able to choose.

Everyone (the politicians, media and food producers) know well what’s going on – so please do something about it!

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Finland – a nation in love with milk

Yesterday I arrived to my parents’ place in Tampere, ready to spend some days without doing anything. Well, anything I don’t feel like doing.

Anyway, being at the parents’ place means that the fridge is always full of good stuff. When I open the door, which I do here a lot, it’s a very different experience than at home as to the variety and quality – my mom is an excellent cook and when the daughter is home so they make sure there’s everything I could ever desire. And I sure enjoy it!

Last evening I accompanied them to do the shopping for the weekend in a huge supermarket called Citymarket. Normally me and my boyfriend do our shopping in a small Alepa or K-supermarket next to our home, so it’s an eye-opening experience to go to these huge places and realize the choice they have – of everything. And in Finland the variety is still quite limited compared to many other countries. Especially in US I always get overwhelmed by the selection of all the products from cheese to sweets. It makes me immediately think do we really need all this stuff? Of course we don’t.

Anyway, this time I focused on the  variety of milk products – Finns love milk and consume a lot of yogurt, “piimä” (kind of sour milk) and “rahka” (kind of quark). Milk is a typical drink for anything: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, salty, sweet… The speciality of Tampere is a creative combination of “mustamakkara” (blood sausage) with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk. Quite a surprise to my Spanish boyfriend! All in all, I would say milk is our national drink, though younger generations are not so much into it.

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Mustamakkara, the typical dish in Tampere, with lingonberry jam and milk. Here’s also the dessert – a doughnut.

Another thing is that there are as many tastes as there are kinds of milk. Today my parents’ fridge contains 5 different milk packs – all three of us have our milk + some extras. And this is nothing if you think of all the milks you can find in a normal Finnish supermarket.

Moreover, there’s a huge number of Finns who can’t intake milk lactose – for example myself. There’s even a joke that you know when you’ve lived too long in Finland when you become lactose-intolerant. So now they have all the milk products also with little (“hyla” or no lactose (“laktoositon”) And so the variety grows.

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My mom likes her milk semi-skimmed and “hyla” – with only little lactose, as she is a bit lactose-intolerant.

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My boyfriend wants his milk semi-skimmed and normal – as he’s Spanish, no lactose-intolerance involved.

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Today I like soy milk the best even if I drink skimmed low-lactose milk too. Depends of the moment…

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My father drinks normal skimmed milk – he’s not lactose-intolerant but on a diet.

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My brother wants to have his coffee with normal full-fat milk.

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Extras: sour milk – another speciality that is very good and healthy containing a lot of good bacteria.

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My favourite yoghurt – I like it simple, without any artificial taste.

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… and this is the yoghurt of my boyfriend. Danone Strawberry with lots of sugar and stuff.

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Quark – another milk product. I love the sour taste and the fact that it contains so much protein.

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My mom’s favourite. “Viili” is a type of yogurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries”, Wikipedia tells.

Actually last year the milk consumption of the Finns went a bit down, as every Finn drank about 129 litres of milk in a year. Still it seems a lot, as not everyone drinks milk at all. Also ice cream was eaten a bit less last year – and Finland is the nation which most ice cream enjoyes in the world! Even if you wouldn’t believe it, as we have are surrounded by ice and snow most of the time  and eating something cold on top of that might not seem wise.

Yoghurt consumption is on the rise, too. Last year every Finn ate 24 kilos of yoghurt. Personally I love natural yoghurt and eat it every morning for breakfast with fruit and seeds.

Anyway, as there’s a very strong low-carb fashion in Finland right now, we consume more and more fat milk and butter (instead of margarine). Also cheese and quark are getting more popular. So I guess we’ll continue heavy consumers of all the white material coming out of a cow – and it’s derivations full of calcium and protein. Not that bad a habit, I guess, even if my vegan friends think it’s crazy to eat “cow’s food”. But even they love soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or coconut milk…

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