I have been told that juuri is the word used for bread culture (sourdough for limppu) and means root, but that the viili culture  is a “seed” and not “root”.

This is what I have been told:

Viilinsiemen (which translates like ”seed of viili” or ”seed for viili”) or juuri (in the past the word juuri was used for both the “seed” for dough for limppu but also for the seed to viili. Other words may also have been used.)

Juuri has another meaning: it is a root or aluspiimä (which translates like “base for fermented milk”) or pohjapiimä (almost like previous). In these two latter ones there is the word “piimä” which is more or less the Finnish synonym for fermented milk (a mesophilic fermented milk, yoghurt didn’t exist in Finland those days).

So it is interesting that Finnish culture and language has a differentiation between these two very related words SEED and ROOT. I am curious to find out more about how this has developed, so if anyone has anything to contribute to this, please let me know.


6 thoughts on “Culture = root or seed

  1. Hello! I have read many pages on your blog now, and think its such an awesome contribution to the Viili culture! Personally, I have now been on the search to find an authentic starter, which has been brought up with organic or biodynamic milk. This has proved very difficult not speaking Finnish – any ideas where I might look? The only sources I can find are in America! 😦

    But onto the topic of this page. I am writing from Estonia, an expat from Australia, and I have studied a little bit of Estonian and interestingly they call their milk Piima, very similar to the word piimä for Finnish fermented milk. Obviously it is no surprise to you that Finnish / Estonian words overlap considering they share roots, but I found it interesting when I read this post.

    Wictionary has this to add:
    “Perhaps borrowed from a Baltic dialect (cf. Lithuanian píenas (“milk”)), or perhaps from Proto-Uralic *pije (tentative root). Possibly cognate with Hungarian fej (“to milk”).”

    • Hi!
      I am glad you like the project. But I have not either been able to find a source of original culture from Finland. Gem culture in the US (Which is originally Finnish) is the closest I could come. I tried hard but never used Finnish media. I think Radio would be a good source. Actually, I think I might try that. I don’t speak any Finnish either but have good friends that do. So for the time being, I am afraid I cannot help you locating a good source just yet.And you are right – Piima piimä are very much related but I think the Finns only call the sour milk piima – as milk is maito. Let me know if you get anywhere with you search for an original viili. I think they have a similar variety in Estonia. Let me know if you get anywhere:)

      • Its a fascinating project. I love the focus on a singular topic, which is rare.

        You said Radio is a good source – do you mean going on the Radio? Or is there a place called Radio?

        I’m sure somebody has Viili in Estonia as well. Its just a matter of a time! If I find some, I’d be happy to try and ship it to you.

        In light of the difficulties sourcing original starter cultures, we’ve created a new Fermented Culture Exchange google+ page which you might be interested in joining:


        Either way, I’ll let you know if I track it down 🙂

      • Yes, I meant radio – as in broadcast.I know they sometimes do programs either about food or about finding things that you might need – an old part of a machine etc. Old folks who are most likely to cultivate old cultures often listen to the radio so it is a potentially good way of spreading a request. I have a good friend in Finland who I will ask. I also had a very interesting mail from another guy after some special viili culture with the velvety top – which is caused bu a fungal microbe called Geotrichum candidum. He also tried everything and eventually found some (in the US unfortunately)through the Finn Fest (celebrating Finnish traditions that I also have written about in this blog), a lady there who cultivated this particular strain of viili. In that respect the WWW is quite amazing. Thanks for the google Fermented Culture Exchange link:)

  2. Hey guys! I’m Edith form Finland, also doing viili research as we speak. I have my own viili seed going but it isn’t an old/traditional one either. I’ve been trying to hunt a viili seed down in Finland, but like you both know it’s tricky. I’ll keep you posted if I find it. I’ve got some good connections though. All for one and all for viili 😉 !


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