One of the more exotic flavours of ice cream that you can find in Finnish shops and at ice cream stalls is “terva” (= tar). Yup, that’s right, the ice cream contains tar extracted from pine trees (the same stuff that is used to water-proof wooden boats – although I guess these days they’re using a flavourant?). Some like it (you can read what they have to say here and here), some hate it (here and here), and some grow to love it (here).

I’m not going to buy it again in a hurry – the initial taste is a lot like mild caramel or toffee (quite nice), but the after-taste is quite chemical (almost soap-like). It is definitely worth a try, and I would guess that other brands may taste different (we bought cheap Pirkka ice cream).

Tar ice cream!

Tar also has some other culinary uses here – for example, tar-marinaded fish, tervasnapsi (“tar schnapps”) and chewing gum. And it makes sense that the Finns have incorporated this product into their food, since they were (and still are, I think) one of the leading producers of this product. The city of Oulu in north-western Finland was a major centre for tar export, and today still celebrates its link with this commodity with an annual tar festival and with a newly formed “tar-route”.

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