Goddess of Cake

A Garden Memory and Odd Salads

This city is drowning in snow, but I can feel the spring edging closer. The days are longer and the little birds have started chirping, and the sunlight feels warm on my cheeks. It reminds me of the fact that the  summer will come.

Last summer we built a secret garden in one desolated spot in Helsinki, amidst old trains, rose bushes and general junk. It became a tiny paradise, with the biggest mangold leaves, abundant mint and sky – reaching branches of dill. And those rows of huge carrots and beetroot! It was a common effort by many  brave guerilla gardeners, who did learn about the miracle of growth in the process.  We were loved by the media, frequented by all kinds of visitors, from art students to radical activists and old ladies interested in gardening. Not to mention Helsinki’s recent dominant pest, the Urban Bunnies, a feral, red – eyed, formerly domesticated little nuisance.

I remember those early summer evenings, dry, light and warm,  lugging the heavy watering cans and letting the plants drink. What a delight is water for the dusty earth and for yourself, after a hot day. And I isn’t it strange, how the little grey, inconspicuous – looking seeds turn black soil, water and sunlight into edible green leaves and colourful tubers? If you never grew your own food, how could you possibly appreciate that? No one can control that magic! We can help and enhance it, but it happens by its own will. For new life to grow, there needs to be first death and decay, and what is living now, will finally be compost that feeds new growth.  A difficult lesson to learn.

Harvest party pictures courtesy of Päivi Raivio, thanks!

If I could stay in that moment, in the secret garden, with the heavy watering cans, I would. But time’s current is a force that only takes you forward. The green growth will take its own way, and is not stopped by blocks of concrete or urban sprawl.  When you open your fist, what you grabbed, a rock, a leaf, a piece of soil,  has  been pressed down to a diamond, a beautiful memory. That is for your keeping, for ever, even when a secret garden is too small a dream.

But they are sleeping there, under the blanket of snow, the little seeds. Soon, soon, it will be their time, to sprout and make a green revolution.  What revolutionary dreams do they dream? Stay tuned to the channel…

The Odd Salad

We recently had a meeting to plan some urban gardening visions. A member of our group suggested on our mailing list, in English, that we could share “an odd salad”. That caused a major confusion: Some people thought he meant “a strange salad”, some people thought the expression referred to a potluck dinner in general, and some people  even somehow got the idea he meant a mixed – gender sauna, because there was also talk about heating up the sauna at our meeting place. Finally, I think everyone understood what the expression means, but the “odd salad” was indeed delicious and the sauna very hot too.

Salad with Dried Apricots and Broccoli

A  head of broccoli

two handfuls of dried apricots

half a leek

50 g hazelnuts


3 tbsp walnut oil

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp maple syrup

a pinch of black pepper

Soak the apricots overnight in water.  The following day, separate the flower heads of the broccoli, and steam them just a couple of minutes, until they are a little tender.  Cut the leek diagonally into strips and very quickly fry it in oil. Slice the apricots and toast the hazelnuts on dry pan. Chop the hazelnuts roughly.  Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad, decorate with chopped hazelnut.

Asian Beetroot Salad

This is a version of a dish a used make out of our guerilla – gardened beets last summer.

1 big beet

1 big orange


3 tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp lemon juice

Slice the beetroot thinly, and steam for a few minutes until tender. Slice the orange. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad.  This salad is much improved if you have time to marinate it for a while.

Pink Salad with Fennel and Pear

200 g red cabbage

1 bulb of fennel

1 pear


2 tbsp raspberry vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tsp honey

a pinch of fleur de sel (or any other salt..)

Slice the cabbage and fennel very finely. I used a cheese – slicer, but you could use a mandolin as well. Cut the pear into thin slices. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and mix the cabbage and fennel in a bowl.  Pound the cabbage and fennel a bit, or give them a squeeze with your fingers. Mix in the pear slices and the dressing.

12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Lovely salads! Is the urban garden going to resurface the coming summer?

Comment by Yaelian

Thanks Yalian! We are trying to expand our project, make all inhabitants of Helsinki grow their own food.. well, I’m joking, but at least we will launch a nice urban farming – website in the spring. And the garden is still there, certainly we will grow more beetroots next summer!

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

Mouth watering salads! I especially like the broccoli – abricot combo. Super-veggies both of them. I wonder, how did you manage with the city-bunnies. As it seems those little beasts are eating up everything.

Comment by okriina

Yes, apricot and broccoli together was delicious! I’d never thought of that one either.. good to know it is healthy too! About the bunnies: we grew our veggies largely in 1m high wooden containers, so most of them didn’t get in. Though the most industrious ones did manage to dig some holes. But mostly it was allright.

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

You have me longing for spring to get my hands in the dirt and watch the magic happen of tiny seeds turn to giant edible treasures. Your recipes are always perfection, thank you for sharing this. I wish I could join you at your gardens and for an odd salad.

Comment by gardenmama

Thank you Garden Mama! I’m looking forward to the spring and seeing how your garden starts to bloom!

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

what an evocative evocation of words this all is… you are subbed and then some, goddess of cake with a ketchup-belly! Wish I could have been there for the vibe and the odd salads, which all three look very intriguing, especially that pear and fennel one!

Comment by kamutflakegirl

Thank you Kamutflakegirl. The red paste on my belly is actually not ketchup but sugar – icing..

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

Wow, Salla, this is really impressive! I’ll be very happy to hear of this year’s Helsinki guerrilla gardening efforts!

Comment by Michele at A House Called Nut

Thanks Michele! You might see some green things coming up even in Kallio…

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

Lovely salads and projects, well done guys!

Comment by David

Thanks David!

Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake

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