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President Niinistö turns to radio phone-in for parsnip advice

Presenters on Radio Suomi’s weekly nature discussion show thought they recognised the voice of “Sauli from Naantali” – and struggled to hide their amazement as the presidential caller went on ask for help with his garden, and waxed lyrical about the beauty of Finnish nature.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö
Finland's President, and keen gardener, Sauli Niinistö. Image: Yle

Listeners to a Finnish radio phone-in show on Wednesday may have thought they heard a familiar voice when one caller rang to ask for advice about his parsnips.

”Now we have Sauli on the line – hi there!”

“Hiya, good evening. And thanks for a great programme…”

So began what seemed like a normal call to Yle Radio Suomi’s weekly nature discussion show, where experts offer up tips and thoughts on everything from the beauty of Finland’s countryside to the best way to cultivate vegetables in the garden.

But as the conversation with Sauli from Naantali went on, it dawned on the show’s presenters that the voice on the end of the line was in fact that of their President Niinistö.

The keen nature lover had two questions for the experts– one regarding parsnips, the other about the wild flower sneezewort. The presenters answered them with typical Finnish cool-headedness, and only occasionally let out giggles of surprise.

The incident echoes an episode of US presidential drama The West Wing, in which President Bartlett assumes a false name to ring into the Butterball Hotline, for advice on how to stuff his Thanksgiving turkey.

Wednesday’s caller then went on to wax lyrical about his favourite plant, the white-flowered lesser butterfly orchid, which grows in the wild, and which he said he’d spotted this summer.

”In the evening, when you go out for a walk, you don’t even need to use your eyes, you can just smell them in the summer air,” Sauli continued. “They’re incredibly beautiful.”

As the three-minute conversation went on, the President of the Republic continued to share his thoughts about the joys of the outdoors.

”It’s amazing sometimes when you see, say, a loosestrife growing next to some meadowsweet, to think that they’re both growing from the same soil, drinking the same water. So how can they end up so different?”

”Nature is indeed wonderful,” he reflected, as the conversation came to a close.

“Indeed it is,” the presenter is heard to say, struggling to suppress another giggle.

This is not the first time that Radio Suomi’s phone-ins have attracted famous callers. Earlier this month Finnish ice-hockey legend Teemu Selänne phoned the station’s live karaoke-style show “The Phone Lines are Singing”.

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