The Crispiest Bit of Finland

I wrote a posting about Rye last year and anticipated that Linkosuo will launch a range of organic flavoured Rye Crisps or Chips. Now it has happened in Germany rc_sauerrahmthrough the wholesaler Dennree. If you happen to be in Germany you can look for the Linkosuo Rye Crisps in organic supermarkets – the best bet probably is the Denns Biomarkt chain of stores.

You have the choice between Tomato, Sour-Cream-Onion and Garlic – or even better – take them all. You can grab a bag and eat them as they are or try adding some dip. The good thing is that they are much more healthy than chips and snacks usually are with organic wholemeal rye, 13% fibre and only 9% fat content.rc_tomate

Now that the products have been developed and launched on one market we are looking at taking the next steps in terms of opening other markets. I will keep you posted.

In addition to these flavored snack products Linkosuo has launched also unflavoured variants on the Finnish market – with 100 % organic wholemeal rye and also with a bit of wheat to soften the bite.

Enjoy the Rye!

Linkosuo Organic Rye Crisps brochure

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Linkosuo Rye Crisps

The story about Linkosuo Rye Crisps is a story about Rye, how traditional Finnish bread adapted to modern times and the history of the family owned Linkosuo bakery company.

Organic rye in Karjalohja, Finland

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Traditional Rye Sour Bread drying on a pole at Peltolan Organic Farm in Vilppula, Finland.

Rye of course is the healthiest grain used for baking bread. The history of rye in Finland goes back over 2000 years and it was the predominant grain in Finland through the middle ages (replacing barley) until the early 20th century. Still a major part of bread in Finland is rye bread. The archetypes of rye bread is the “reikäleipä” or the round hole sour bread and the round sour rye bread “ruisleipä” with a simple recipe: rye, water, salt. So this is a sour bread with 100% wholemeal rye flour – no wheat and no yeast. The hole bread has the hole because in the old times the bread was hung on poles to dry close to the ceiling of the house. Western Finnish tradition stressed rare baking sessions combined with long-term storage. Of course the dry bread would be too hard to bite but it would be soaked in soups or milk. Nowadays with commercial bakeries baking fresh bread every day this tradition has largely disappeared.

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Linkosuo Rye Crisps in different sizes.

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Linkosuo Rye Chip with traditional organic Finnish "Bread-Cheese" and organic rucola..

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Linkosuo Rye Buttons with cheese, sour cucumber and paprika. All organic.

Linkosuo was the first to adapt the dry rye bread to commercial baking. The first version was just a thinner version of the traditional hole bread. It is not produced anymore because the bite was far too hard – even for Finnish teeth. The breakthrough innovation was to tear the upper part and bottom of the bread apart before drying resulting in a thinner and crispier dry bread known as “Varrasleipä”. Varrasleipä has been hugely popular in Finland for decades.

Finland, as the rest of the Western world, has developed a taste of snacking and this challenge was met by developing the hole of the traditional bread into a “Rye Button”. The Button could easily be used at home or f.ex. at parties as a kind of delicious cocktail snack by just putting butter, cheese, cutleries, vegetables etc on the Rye button.

The most recent modernization of the Rye Crisp was to develop it into a real snack – ready to eat as it is. This was achieved by adding some wheat to the dough to make the Rye Chips bite easier and crumblier and to flavor them. The non-organic range of flavored Rye Chips is already on the market in Finland but also the flavored organic Rye Chips range are in the pipeline. We have already tasted them and they are delicious! But the pure rye version “Aito Ruis” might still be the best. So keep posted and I will let you know as soon as they are available.

You can also already get Finnish Ruis – the fresh bread – in New York. Visit www.nordicbreads.com to see how two Finnish brothers bake real organic Finnish Rye Bread or Ruis Bread in Queens.

For more information about how healthy rye is visit:

The Rye info site of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland 

and

About Rye and Health

 

 

 

 

 

Bad weather

Two years in a row led us to think that the greenhouse effect means that summers in Finland are ideal for holidays but a little too dry for farming. This summer shows that it is not as simple as that: First we had a dry spring which meant that only cereal fields that were sown early enough sprouted normally and got a good start while the rest – and that means most – didn’t sprout until the first rain came along a few weeks later. Then we got a rainy and relatively cool summer – which definitely was not ideal for holidays – and meant slow development of the crops. (Personally I was in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland most of July with day-temperatures between 12-15 C. So not too warm but that is not why you go in that direction anyway. Have a look at my picture blog.)

So now it is already September and only a fraction of the cereals have been harvested. Nothing has been lost yet but if it rains too much we loose quality and in the worst scenario the farmers will not be able to harvest. Well – we are hoping for an Indian summer…

On Monday and Tuesday we were driving around ‘Pohjanmaa’ on the Finnish west coast, the weather was half-cloudy and nice and harvesters were to be seen almost on all fields. But it was mainly barley and some rye that was harvested: wheat and oats still have to wait. So not much to be said about availability or prices of organic milled products yet (oat flakes, wheat flour etc). Of course the weather has the same effect on the other crops: potato, rape seed and even wild berries. Everything is a few weeks late.

Organic Oats 2007 crop


Of the organic cereals grown in Finland oats are by far the most important. According to Evira statistics organic oats was grown on 19.583 ha in Finland which is only 300 ha more than in 2006. However the total yield might be double 2006 due to the record low harvest that year. But is this enough? I am afraid not. The dynamism of the market is difficult to grasp and therefore nobody seems to know how much will enter the market. Part of the harvest is fed to animals on-farm or sold to neighbors for that purpose. Part of the crop is harvested on small farms and there is no point in transporting it over any distance. For the organic oats that does enter the market there are several buyers, some trading it to the domestic industry but most looking at the export market. Helsinki Mills is buying directly from farmers trying to capture as much of the oats as possible for processing in Finland. So the farmers situation should be quite good. The prices have increased to levels that have not been experienced before during Finland’s EU membership. Prices are up to 2,5 times higher than in 2005. So there should be an incentive for more farmers to go organic. Also conventional oats (as all cereals) price is increasing but nevertheless the price difference is a healthy 100+ €/t.

Sweden, Germany and Canada seem to have experienced average oat harvests on similar acreage as 2006. The main problem would seem to be that the market is growing strongly but production is not. We need more organic farmers. The interesting question which remains to be seen is how farmers react to this clear market signal. If farmers consider converting to organics they will naturally be wondering what the organic oats price will be in 2010. Who can tell? In the meantime we are unfortunately not able to meet the demand.

Oat crop 2006 was only 50%

TIKE, the Information Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland, has for the first time collected data on the use of organic crops in Finland. The data for the 2006 crop of organic cereals (wheat, rye, oats and barley) has now been released. It shows that the production of organic cereals was 47 million kg or 1,2 % of total cereal production in Finland. By far the biggest crop (51 % of organic total) was oats. What is stricking about the statistics is that the average crop was only c 50 % of normal and also that only 51 % of that entered the market as organic. So only 12 million kg of organic oats entered the market which is far less than is normally exported from Finland as bulk – not to speak about domestic consumption and Helsinki Mills’ export of oat flakes. The numbers fully explain the crises we have been in regarding organic oats in Finland.

So far the 2007 crop looks ok: it has been warm and moist. But it is still over 2 months to harvest…