Doing life right, at home and away

Month: April 2016

Of sima and fermenting drinks

Yay! It’s May and it’s time to make some mead! This beautiful fermented nectar – sima (pronounced for English speakers like see-mah) – is traditional to the Finnish 1st of May bacchanals.


One of the BIG FOUR Finnish celebrations in the calendar year, the 1st of May celebration – Vappu (pronounced kinda as vah-poo) – celebrates the spring, Saint Walburg (along the lines of Walburgsnacht) and whathaveyou. Labour movements as well as university students have all alike appropriated this beautiful spring party day.

In Finland, sima  – this often home-made, low-alcohol lemon mead – is one of the most prolific signs of Vappu. It is an important part of my favourite Vappu tradition: the big, even lavish picnics, especially popular in Helsinki.

Other typical things related to Vappu are: carnival-style festivities, all imaginable varieties of alcohol and drinking them aplenty.

While Vappu/Walburgsnacht is of religious origin – for centuries if not millenias have pagan prehistoric Finns been chucking down pints of sima and dancing the night away in the gleaming light of spring bonfires.

While a strong and potent alcoholic beverage in the past, sima of today is kind of a party drink for the whole family due to its low alcohol content. This is my mother’s recipe, that we have used for years and tweaked it a bit to our taste.

Here, I’m going to tell you how to make it – it’s super easy and so tasty!

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Of wild garlic and spring foraging

Ah, the spring, the greenery, the herbs, the foraging. 

Starting from some time in March, until May and even beginning of June, Leipzig is filled with the distinct aroma of wild garlic. (Maybe you call it ramsonsbuckrams, broad-leaved garlicwood garlicbear leek or bear’s garlic, or just Bärlauch, if you’re German…)

It is perhaps the easiest and the most versatile herb to forage and, perhaps most importantly, it grows in heaps throughout Central Europe. 

Kind of a chive, the name in many languages comes from the brown bear’s liking to it and the bear’s habit to dig up the ground to eat the bulbs. Brown bears have great taste.

How to find it and identify it?

Wild garlic is so common at least in Central Europe and the UK, you’ll unlikely struggle to find it. 

Go to the nearest (semi) deciduous forest. Smell the air. The dead giveaway of wild garlic is the scent. You’ll smell it miles before you see it – as mentioned previously, the whole city of Leipzig smells of wild garlic for weeks. 


Wild garlic tends to grow in low, bushy foliage, with quite long, thin stems and long, gently tapering leaves. The individual little “bushes” have each long and thin stems in the middle with one single flower bud growing on each stem.


However, the strong smell is such a clear way of identification that if ever in doubt, just rub a leaf between your fingers to break it and trust your nose – it will smell like a strong chive/spring onion and distinctly garlicky. There is no way to mistake wild garlic for anything else if your sense of smell has not been compromised!

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