Spring can be seen at the fish counter

Right now, many Finnish fish are in season, and it is the time to take advantage of it and give them a try, either using traditional Finnish flavours and methods or cooking them in a brand new way.

Spring is the golden age of the fishing season. After the ice has melted away, free-flowing water entices the fish to actively swim about. From March to May, you should go for perch, pike-perch, ruffe, smelt and roach. Finnish fish is clean and nutrient-rich food which you should eat at least twice a week. You can find your favourite by trying out the different types and different ways to cook them.

Seasonal living is routine at Vihiluodon Kala, a fish business located on the outskirts of Oulu. The business’ restaurant offers daily catch from the local fishers. There is also Norwegian fish on offer, which, when smoked, is its biggest seller.

“We get our fish locally from the Bay of Bothnia and the lake Oulujärvi. Sure this is a challenging field where you have to rely on getting a catch. Because of this, our cooks have learned to plan our menus in the morning when we know what we can offer that day,” says Vihiluodon Kala CEO Seppo Helanen.

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Appreciation for wild fish on the rise

Vihiluodon Kala is a 25-year-old fish wholesaler and processing company which also opened up a restaurant three years ago along with its new production facilities. Over the years, Helanen has seen how there has been an increase in the appreciation for wild Finnish fish.

“People today are willing to pay for wild fish. However, the fishers unfortunately often feel like they’re backed into a corner because their catch has become smaller and the limits on fishing drive them to feel restricted.”

Helanen is continuously in touch with the fishers. They take their catch to him as soon as they bring the fish in from the sea. Finnish fish has gained the attention of consumers with, in addition to healthfulness, its ecological qualities. It is only a good 50 kilometres for the catch to get from the island and municipality of Hailuoto to Vihiluodon Kala. At the same time, consumers also get to try slightly more unfamiliar fish such as smelt.

“Our customers are brave enough to sample even stranger types, and those who have eaten fish all their lives, gladly welcome old, familiar alternatives. But it sure is a challenge to get people knowledgeable about different species.”

Health benefits of fish can’t be beat

Even though the appreciation for wild fish has been on the rise, great masses still follow prices. The benefits of Finnish fish, however, can’t be beat. In addition to the fact that fish is healthy and contains a great deal of good fats and vitamin D, favouring Finnish fish is also beneficial to local businesses through employment.

“This is local food because it’s a short trip for the fish from the sea to the consumer’s plate. You also know where it comes from and what it is. When you eat what’s in season, you also get variety, and you won’t get bored with the same old thing,” Helanen professes.

It is difficult for Helanen to choose his favourite, because he likes whitefish, pike, perch and pike-perch equally. The most important thing is that it is fresh and domestic. The company’s products also come from fresh fish, such as smoked whitefish and fried vendace. The home cook should try them, too, because the world is chock full of excellent fish recipes, and you won’t have far to go to get the ingredients.

Text and photos: Saara Kärki

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Business meets purchaser at event for food industry professionals

The Paikallista ruokaa! event on local food offered networking and product tasting as well as the chance to get to know the activities of different businesses.

Organised on 21 March 2014 along with Gastro Helsinki, the event for food industry professionals took place in the Winter Garden room of Messukeskus Helsinki, Expo and Convention Centre. Purchasing agents had the opportunity to get acquainted with and taste the products of local businesses from all around Finland: there were 21 businesses and just under 100 purchasing agents attending. Paikallista ruokaa! was organised separately from Gastro because it was only on for a short time, but as it was taking place at the same time during Gastro, it was possible for visitors to go to both events. The event was jointly organised by the True Flavours II project, the Local Food Programme and the Food Finland network on Finnish food.

There could have been more purchasing agents at the event. The businesses had really put effort into their display tables and brought their products for tasting. The business owners were grateful that it was easy to get to the venue, as the supplies and equipment were all set up and they only had to bring themselves and their products. Additionally, they were grateful that it was only happening for a limited time and was consequently a compact event. On the whole, the feedback from the business owners was quite positive and many of them stated that they would come to a similar event again, and that it is good that such forums get organised. The business owners also found it good that they had an opportunity to get to know the products of other businesses and, at the same time, do some networking.

Nothing can ever turn out perfect the first time, and so some of the venue’s organisational issues could stand some improvement. Some of the products could have used heating in order to do their purpose and flavours justice, but there was no possibility for this in the Winter Garden room. The fact that the event was not within Gastro Helsinki was taxing on the number of visitors because everyone had to come to Paikallista ruokaa! separately, and it was slightly challenging to find the place. It would then be important, in the future, that a similar forum would be organised within an event, even though it would somehow be given separate attention and be limited. Furthermore, special efforts would have to be made to make sure that the event would bring in just the right target audience.

Paikallista ruokaa! included the following businesses:

Hauhalan Hanhifarmi, Ollinmäen Viinitila, Tmi Juvan Hapankaali, Saariston Marjamaa Oy, Kyröntarhat Oy, He-Vi Hasila, Roberts Oy, Kainuun Country Food Oy, Vuokatin Viini Oy, Veraisen Leipomo Oy, Kotilan tila, LAromit Oy, Ritvan herkku, Viskaalin tila ja teurastamo, Pohjolan Peruna Oy, Herkkujuustola Oy, Penttilän tila, Rönnvikin Viinitila, Lapin Maria Oy, Vuonoksen Jäätelö ja Svarfvars – Hyvän Elämän Ruokakauppa Oy.
You can find more pictures and see the atmosphere on the LocalFood Programme blog (in Finnish)

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