Pettuleipä - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Pettuleipä

Scandinavia has a long history of stretching flour supplies with tree bark.

The Samí people—an indigenous group in northern Scandinavia—have long relied on pine and birch bark as staple foods. This practice of using bark, specifically the inner section known as the phloem, in food preparation has proved essential to Nordic farmers in times of famine and food rationing.

In Finland, pine bark flour is known as pettujauho and produces pettuleipä (pine bark bread). It became particularly prevalent during a two-year famine at the end of the 16th century. Desperately in need of grain substitutes, bakers made loaves of bread from a “flour” of dried, pulverized bark. Foragers stripped the outer bark of local trees to get to the phloem, which they then dried and roasted. To make the flour, they stuffed the lot into a bag and hammered it into dust. In the 20th century, wartime food rationing sparked another bark bread revival. Resourceful cooks again began to cut flour stores with the tree meal.

Some Scandinavian bakers still work with this traditional ingredient by choice, adding small amounts to grain. Today’s chefs also take advantage of high-powered blenders, rather than busting out the hammer. While ratios of 15:85 are common in modern bark bread, traditional bark bread could’ve contained more than 50 percent bark meal, yielding a bitter, fibrous loaf. Upon biting into homemade, old-school bark bread, one reviewer determined “it has a wooden taste to it.”

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