Adapting to the food culture here has been one of the biggest challenges of life in Finland for me. I like Finnish food, don't get me wrong. Chirac's and Berlusconi's famous, snide comments about Finnish food reveal little more than their own ignorance. But, organic and local is only just taking off (partially due to the myth of 'clean' Finnish food), the growing season is woefully short, and international food cultures are lesser known here than other W. European places I've visited (which could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it).
So, vegetables that could thrive here and that I love and miss, like chard, are virtually impossible to find in shops or farmer's markets and much of the time you can forget about organic. Back at the cottage, Janne and I grew a lot of the veggies we were missing (chard!!!), but here in downtown Helsinki I don't even have a pot of herbs in the window.
Then, a clever group of people decided to import the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to Finland and our family is one of a lucky handful who got to join in its first year. Just outside the Helsinki city limits, a farmer (along with the voluntary help of members) is growing vegetables, grains, herbs, and edible flowers on an organic, biodynamic (I have no idea what this means, but it sounds good) plot of land. Each week, we gather at the distribution point to pick up our food, and so far there have also been local farmers there selling additional treats like honey and blueberries.
Here's some of what we got the first week:
I'd forgotten the joy of getting a surprise assortment of veggies and the challenge of turning them into a delicious meal. And the satisfied feeling of knowing your food is seasonal, that it was grown well, that it's not covered in pesticides. I do see some desperate What do I do with all these root vegetables?- moments in my future, but, hey, we're in Finland.
Special thanks to the urban gardener and fellow blogger and forager Salla for inviting me to the CSA in the first place!