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Posts Tagged ‘berries’

So yesterday I wrote a giddily excited post about aronias and how awesome they are and how we have some, and then this morning I woke up to comments from my kind readers gently pointing out that the berries in my possession aren’t aronias at all. Oops. Thank you, readers, for correcting me and being nice about it. After such an incredibly public and embarrassing blonde moment, part of me wanted to delete the post, but alas, I can’t do that because of NaBloPoMo. So I made a few edits instead.

And I still think aronias are great. If you have some, lucky you. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to try the real deal sometime soon. 🙂 In the meantime, though, we have crowberries, which is fine by me. As it turns out, they’re no slouch in the health benefit department themselves!

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About time I finished recapping my trip to Finland, which ended about a month ago. Here’s a yummy little snack you’ll likely have trouble finding anywhere else: salmiakki ice cream.

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As I’ve mentioned before, salmiakki is the Finnish word for salty black licorice. Generally salmiakki is in candy form, but you can find it in other things too, like this vanilla ice cream cone swirled through with dark gray salmiakki ribbons and topped with crunchy licoricey sprinkles. As it turns out, salmiakki and vanilla (white chocolate as well) make an excellent combination—the sweetness balances the harshness, and the gentle creaminess is complimented by the salt. Very nice. I actually bought another non-candy product in Finland that utilized the flavor of salmiakki—Salmiakki-Chili flavored Dominos, which are the European answer to Oreos—but I forgot to take a picture of them. D’oh. Just imagine black cookies (darker than Oreos) sandwiching a dark gray cream filling. Stormy and dramatic, and surprisingly good. My Estonian colleagues liked them, and most Estonians don’t love salmiakki.

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One morning J’s mother put these darling breakfast boards out for us (I have no idea whether “breakfast board” is the actual name for these, but that’s what I would call this). Aren’t they adorable? And so Nordic, with the light wood and the yummy Karjalanpiirakka gracing the ceramic plate and the perfect ergonomically-designed mug? I guess the indentation in front is meant to be an egg cup, but J’m mother put one of her tiny homegrown strawberries in it. SO cute. (Unfortunately her strawberries didn’t do too well this year because the bees kept eating them :-().

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Terva. I’m not really sure I can count this as a food. It’s tar– you can read about how it’s made here. In Finland it’s used to flavor drinks and candies and is also used in saunas. When Finland joined the European Union, the EU wanted to outlaw the usage of tar. Isn’t that hilarious? The Finns and other Nordic people have been making and using this stuff for centuries, and the European Union wants to tell them it’s bad? Ha. Needless to say, terva is still legal today. I did taste a bit of it “straight”– essentially I just touched that drop of extremely viscous tar to my tongue, and the flavor of extremely bitter wood smoke exploded in my mouth. Very powerful stuff. I love the smokey smell, though.

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We got in some berry-picking this year as well! The first time we went out we got mostly raspberries and some lingonberries and blueberries, which J’s mother made into jams for us. The next time we focused on blueberries, since it seemed to be a good year for them– they were everywhere, and big ones too! We ended up with 4 plastic containers full, which we froze, then wrapped in an insulated bag and stuck into my luggage for the flight home. They actually made it back to Tallinn in good shape (as in, still frozen)! And now I have Finnish blueberries to last me through the winter. Love it.

And lest you think all I did in Finland was eat J’s parents’ food, here are some pictures of what we did to earn our meals.

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I learned how to split wood! I was so excited. I didn’t think I’d be strong enough but J’s dad had a brand-new, super-sharp and lightweight ax, and J was a good teacher. You can see the concentration on my face, as well as the wood splitting between your very eyes.

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There was also some of this. J has laughed at me many times in the past because the only lawnmower I’d ever used was the kind that propels itself forward. Lazy American :-D. But I proved that I can handle an old-school machine just as well.

And that, I believe, concludes my recap of this trip to Finland. But we’ll be there again at Christmastime, when I’ll surely discover more new foods and traditions.

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In my last post, I mentioned enjoying the things that nature makes available to us in this part of the world. Sharing my activities from this weekend will be an appropriate follow-up to that. On Friday, my department at work and the department we share a floor with left the building at noon to take a field trip to a bog 60 km outside of Tallinn. Nature walks have nothing to do with my job itself, but some of us decided we wanted to get out of the building and socialize in a more natural setting :-).

At Kakerdaja raba (Kakerdaja bog– the name comes from a type of bird), we hiked through forests, traversed the bog on a trail made of planks, and listened to stories from our guide, Romeo (…which is not a common Estonian name). The bog offered more than just beautiful views– there were big, ripe cranberries growing along the plank trail, so it was easy to reach down and pop a firm, sour berry in your mouth without even breaking stride (the plank trail is narrow, so we had to walk single file). And just as our stomachs were starting to rumble and we were getting somewhat tired, we reached a forested spot thick with blueberries, even bigger and sweeter than the ones I found in Finland, so of course we made a pit stop there. It was just so satisfying spending a quiet, relaxing afternoon surrounded by a vast expanse of untouched land… complete with snacks.

Then on Saturday, I went seenele (mushroom-picking). It’s very common for Estonians to head to the woods early on autumn mornings to fill their baskets with fresh wild mushrooms. Pille over at Nami-nami has written more informatively about wild mushrooms in Estonia than I ever could, so I recommend heading over there if you want to know more about this custom.

I was heading into the woods for the first time in my life to pick mushrooms, along with the kind co-worker who had agreed to take me with her. The fact that I’d never done it before is one of those things that reminds me that I’m not a “real” Estonian, as I didn’t grow up here, doing the things that other Estonians have done. But now I’m here, and I want to learn how to find mushrooms.  I was shown two types of mushrooms that are good to eat, so that was basically all I was looking for… but I couldn’t find any. I found mushrooms, of course, but they didn’t possess the characteristics I was looking for (and many of them had skinny stems, which somebody told me is usually the sign of a shady mushroom. Edible mushrooms generally have fat stems). I enjoyed being outdoors, crouching low to the ground, poking and examining mushrooms that were interesting, if not edible, but after a while I did get somewhat discouraged (my more experienced companions found some mushrooms, but even they were having a difficult time, as there weren’t very many around).

But then, wonder of wonders, in the third area we visited, I found one! And a few more next to it! And later, 2 more! So my grand total for the day came to 5 lousy mushrooms, 2 of which were tiny, but I didn’t care. They were my first-ever mushrooms, mushrooms that I’d picked myself and would prepare in my kitchen. And I know that the next time I venture into the woods, I’ll learn even more, recognize even more, and hopefully find more. And maybe it will even make me more Estonian :-).

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