The Finnhorse Esu shows his skills at a championship. Photo: Saija Tenhunen
If you take a stroll through the Finnish countryside you will likely, at some point, encounter a flock of colourful Finnsheep. As the name indicates, this breed originated in Finland, where sheep have been kept for the last few centuries. In 1918, the year after Finnish independence, the Finnish Sheep Breeders’ Association was founded, which led to the systematic improvement of the breed. They were and are valued for their meat, wool, hides, milk and landscape management skills. Today, the breed is no longer exclusively found in Finland: due to its fertility, the breed is highly valued in other countries, especially in the USA and Australia.
It’s been told that the potato Lemin punanen found its’ way to Finland already during the 1850s through soldiers returning from the Krim war. It is a magnificent plant with high, sturdy haulm and abundant flowering. The tubers are light red and round with very deep eyes. The flesh is light yellow with red spots. The variety has mainly been cultivated in the southern parts of Finland. The municipality Lemi actually markets the potato as a local delicacy.
Betula pendula was chosen national tree of Finland in 1988. And it is a tree closely tied to the Finnish identity. Its sap, barch and wood has been widely used in everyday life and the leaves has been used as fodder to the animals. Not to forget, birch boughs are important tools in any Finnish sauna. The first birch seed orchards in Finland were established already at the beginning of the 1970’s at Haapastensyrjä. From 1970 to 2012, 3 300 kg seeds were produced in 35 orchards. Birch is preserved through in situ conservation. Genetic conservation of forest trees started in Finland in 1992 with the selection of the first gene reserve forest. The main objective of gene conservation is to conserve genetic variability within each species.
Last year Gerd Ringvall donated a sugar pea from Österbotten to NordGen. She had received it from her mother in law (born in 1923), who in turn had received it from her mother (born in 1903). It is possible but uncertain whether also this woman’s mother grew it. The sugar pea becomes 120-150 cm high. It has a sweet and tasty flavour. The pea pod can be eaten during a long period as it takes quite some time for it to become woody.
The only native Finnish horse breed, the Finnhorse, is older than Finland itself. In 1884, the first Finnish horse breeding association was founded and stud book recordings began as early as 1907. This breed, sometimes called the “Finnish Universal”, is very versatile and was and is used as a draught animal as well as for riding. The Finnhorse holds the record as the fastest cold-blooded trotter in the world! Today there are four different types of Finnhorse: trotters, work horses, riding horses and ponies, reflecting their many uses.
The swede Simo has been cultivated since the 19th century. Until 1947 it was grown in Polijärv in the northern parts of Karelen by Simo Parjarinen, who the swede also has been named after. Later, it has been sold at market places in Lahti and later in Lappeenranta. Arvo Pirhonen, living in Lappeenranta, grew the variety in 25 years and wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t vanish. He therefore gave some seeds to a Finnish plant breeding company. Simo is an early swede with high yield and can be stored. It has a light-yellow flesh and has a nice and mild taste. After many years of testing and tasting, it was added to a national list of plant varieties in 1998. Today, no commercial companies offer the swede Simo in their assortment