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Wooden, but healthy fare

During the crop failures that were all too frequent features of life in Finland in the late19th century, people were able to stretch the flour with which they baked their bread by using a powder ground from the dried inner bark of pine trees. Today, this last resort of the starving is again very much in vogue with the well-to-do and health-conscious.

Pine flour owes its modern popularity to the abundance of vegetable antioxidants or flavonoids that it contains. The health-enhancing properties of flavonoids are the subject of intensive research in many parts of the world, and they have already been found to reduce the risk of heart and vascular diseases. The flavonoids found in pine bark are the same as those in green tea, which is one of the world's richest sources of these substances. Besides that, pine bark is more than fifty per cent fibre and gluten-free, making it ideal for sufferers of coeliac disease.

Pine flour, pine-and-rye bread and small round pine crispbread biscuits are now on the market and exports to several countries including the Netherlands, Germany, France and Austria have begun.

The flour is made by stripping the bark from young, freshly-felled trees and removing its brown and green parts, leaving sheets that are only a few millimetres thick. These are then dried, roasted and ground.