Geek Trivia

The Finnish People Survived A Great Famine In The 1860s By Eating?

Beaver Tails
Cheese Curd
Reindeer Horns
Pine Trees
Which Spacecraft Was The First To Autonomously Return Extraterrestrial Samples to Earth?

Answer: Pine Trees

Times of great famine call for extreme measures and when famine swept through Finland in the 1860s, the Finnish people relied on any resources they could to survive, including sustaining themselves off pine trees.

Between the outer bark layer of trees and the inner old growth wood layer is a thin layer (the wet and slippery layer that is exposed when the outer bark is damaged) known as phloem. The phloem is a living transport layer that moves water and nutrients up from the roots of the tree from the soil and transports the soluble organic molecules created during photosynthesis (primarily sucrose).

During the famine, the Finnish people stripped the phloem from pine trees, dried it, ground it, and mixed it with ground rye seeds and what little wheat flour they had to bake a very dense and hard dark bread. Although the bread was dense (the baking process didn’t break the bark powder down fully and the yeast couldn’t use the sugars to rise) and hardly as nutritive as regular food stuffs, it did help countless people survive the famine.

Image courtesy of Juha Kämäräinen.