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Traditional Sámi diets

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  • Traditional Sámi diets

    First of all I'd like to say I've read the forum for few months now, but this is the first time I post something. I do not know about you, but naturally being a Finn I'm interested of traditional (pre-1950s) Finnish and Sámi diets. I have some experience of both food cultures since I'm a "Lapland-Finn" on my mother side and a "regular-Finn" from my father side. I've made summaries of common diet based on material I've collected from several 17th and 18th century sources.

    Forest Sámi had identical food culture as the Finns before agriculture. Most commons catches were birds, fish, moose and bear. Reindeer husbantry is in fact a quite new invention in Finnish Lapland, starting from the 16th century. The only food eaten during winter months by reindeer people was different parts of reindeer, bil-, lingon- and cloudberries. As the females give birth to calfs in April-May, milk and cheese is added to the diet and meat is dropped out for whole summer. The only plants people ate apart from berries were Angelica archangelica and Rumex acetosa.

  • #2
    Interesting So in summer, did they have much fruit or vegetables? Otherwise it sounds like summer food is nothing but milk, cheese and berries. I assume they could still get fish?


    • #3
      Originally posted by avocado View Post
      Interesting So in summer, did they have much fruit or vegetables? Otherwise it sounds like summer food is nothing but milk, cheese and berries. I assume they could still get fish?
      As I stated above they did not consume much plant material in any time of year. Berries are available from early August to when snow sets, usually in first week of November and few weeks more in southern Finland. I suspect reindeer Sámi did not have time to catch much fish, even in Finnish Border Guard test during 1970s proved man could only catch two pounds of low-fat fish in a day with hooks and nets in Lapland. Of course those who lived near the rivers could catch some salmon. Some female reindeers could be killed during the summer, but only if they did not have calves.

      If you're interested of the Sámi living during the 18th century, here are Carl von Linné's diaries from 1732 in English.

      Lachesis lapponica - Part I
      Lachesis lapponica - Part II
      In summer they make two meals of milk in the course of the day, and when they have gone through their allotted task of milking their reindeer, or making cheese, they resign themselves to indolent tranquillity, not knowing what to do next. In winter their food is cheese, taken once or twice a day, but in the evening they eat meat. A single reindeer supplies four persons with food for a week.
      You can find nutritional values for reindeer products and berries from database. Angelica and Sorrel were probably mostly eaten for their taste.
      Reindeer meat
      Reindeer liver


      • #4
        Few simple taiga recipes:
        - Cloudberries are first boiled in their own juice and then little salt is added. They are then berried in the ground in a birch-bark container. When needed they are digged up.
        - Any species of fish is boiled and then deboned. Cloudberries or other berries are added and they are mixed with the fish with a pestle. It is then eaten with a spoon.
        - The stem of Angelica archangelica is boiled with reindeer whey and then consumed.


        • #5
          Interesting. Did they eat the Angelica roots?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Hedonist View Post
            Did they eat the Angelica roots?
            No, only the stem.