Things to do
Swedish food safaris – a tasty, all-natural adventure
Foragers rejoice – everyone is free to roam Sweden’s countryside on the hunt for Mother Nature’s nutritious offerings. Set off on your own or let an expert guide you – food safaris come in many guises.
Foraging culture is strong in Sweden – come late summer, nature-lovers of all ages, top chefs included, spend days on end in the wilderness collecting berries, mushrooms and plants. Locating natural treasures such as blueberries and mushrooms is as enjoyable as feasting on them. And thanks to Sweden’s unique right of public access, anyone is free to set off on a soul-soothing food safari with basket in hand, provided you follow the golden rules “don’t disturb and don’t destroy.”
While it might be tempting to wander into the wilderness on your own, we strongly recommend that you let an experienced forager accompany you. Not only will you avoid the risk of picking inedible – or even poisonous – berries and plants, an expert guide will help you locate elusive delicacies. The chanterelle, for instance, is notoriously shy and it sometimes takes a trained eye to find it, hiding in clusters under pine needles, moss and fallen trees. Stockholm-based Niki Sjölund – chef and wilderness guide – is one of many experts that hold mushroom foraging courses.
Swedes also have a penchant for foraging in more cultivated forms, seeking out farms and orchards across the country that offer pick-your-own (självplock in Swedish) fruit and vegetables, ranging from strawberries and apples, to potatoes and sweetcorn. Seafood lovers are in luck too – lobster and mussel safaris are also part of the Swedes’ penchant for relying on nature’s generous pantry.
The forests of Sweden = berry and mushroom heaven
So, where do you go if you fancy a spot of berry or mushroom picking – or indeed a handful of wood sorrel (also known as sour grass)? Simply head for the trees, and since half of Sweden is covered in woods, you’ll never have to venture too far before stumbling into a sizable chunk of forest, even if you’re based in the capital of Stockholm, or Gothenburg near the west coast.
Hit the right spot in the forest and you’ll be surrounded by a sea of blue or red – and sometimes a mix of the two, since blueberries and lingonberries both thrive in the same sort of environment. In fact, you’ll even come across them in marshier terrain further north. In these arctic climes, you’ll also find the “gold of the marshland” – the cloudberry. These beautifully amber, raspberry-shaped delights are vitamin-packed and delicious served – northern Swedish-style – with waffles and whipped cream.
Raspberries, meanwhile, grow wild in most of the country, as do rosehip and nettles (best picked in spring). Wild strawberries are a joy to find in decorative little clusters soaking up the sun in forest clearings, along country lanes or on the edges of flower meadows. Swedes even have an expression for a favourite, treasured place, or hidden gem: smultronställe, which translates to “wild strawberry place”. Having experienced the joy of stumbling upon a spot of intensely sweet wild strawberries, it’s easy to see why it has become a symbol of magic delight.
The delights of Sweden's lakes and coastal areas
Leaving the deep forest behind, Sweden's coastal areas add another layer to the country's rich foraging prospects, and so do the many lakes dotted around from north to south. Fishing in the wild, surrounded by trees, is sheer therapy and a relaxing adventure hard to beat. And though it's not part of the right of public access, you may fish using hand gear in public waters without a license.
Relying on the expertise of a local fishing guide may increase your chances of securing a good catch (the joy!). If you're staying near one of Sweden's major lakes, such as Vänern, Vättern or Mälaren in the southern part of the country – or indeed Stockholm or Gothenburg's archipelagos – you'll be able to join guided fishing trips – yet another way to experience the beautiful nature of Sweden while satisfying your hunger for local produce caught in the wild.