In Sweden, the ability to forage for food is practically enshrined in law under allemansrätten, the Swedes' unique right of public access. Here's how visitors to Stockholm can experience Swedish foraging culture for themselves.
Stockholm photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Imagine it: You’re out in the woods; it’s quiet and peaceful. Moss softens your footsteps and a quaint wicker basket hangs from your elbow. You’ve found a beautiful patch of whatever you were looking for—maybe it’s blueberries, mushrooms, or even the coveted cloudberry, and you’re free to take it home with you.
Foraging is a regular part of life for many Swedes, even those in urban centers. This connection with nature is such an integral part of the Swedish identity that it is enshrined into law: Allemansrätten, which translates to “every man’s right” and essentially means the freedom to roam, allows residents to hike, camp, and even forage food almost anywhere in the country. Visitors are free to participate in this practice as well, as long as they maintain Swedish foraging etiquette. Not to worry if you don’t fancy a solo walk through the woods in the hope of finding a troop of mushrooms or a berry patch—there are plenty of ways to experience the amazing food and biodiversity of Stockholm, even if you don’t want to head out into the woods yourself.
How to Forage in Stockholm
More than half of Sweden is forested, and the capital of Stockholm, despite being an urban center, is no exception. The greater Stockholm area is home to large areas of easily accessible green space. In the summer months, great success can be had picking blueberries at Nackareservatet (map) just a short bus ride from Slussen (map) near the city center. These European blueberries (also called bilberries), pictured below, look slightly different from their widely recognized North American relatives, but they taste just as good. Though the reserve is a sure bet, blueberries are so abundant in Stockholm that nearly any foray into a healthy wooded area will likely yield an opportunity come summertime. Intrepid visitors might also manage to locate blackberries, wild strawberries, or even lingonberries, which are more common in the north of Sweden but can be found around Stockholm with enough dedication.
Courtesy of Danielle Dubay-Betters
Here in Sweden, mushrooms are perhaps the most coveted wild-growing food, particularly the chanterelle (kantarell in Swedish). Mushrooms can be found all year, but mid-summer to early fall is the time for kantarells. Mattias Andersson, chair of Stockholms Svampvӓnner (Stockholm’s Mushroom Friends), recommends foraging for mushrooms within nature reserves because of their higher biological diversity. There are a few varieties of mushrooms that are pretty easily recognizable, but you should never eat anything you have doubts about—inexperienced foragers will want to consult a guidebook or app for these, or head out with a more knowledgeable companion. Mushrooms like to hide, so check around trees and in the moss in wooded areas like Grimsta nature reserve (map).
Before you start picking, be aware that you are not permitted to damage growing trees, disturb nests or other animal homes, or pick protected species. As a matter of etiquette, it’s best not to pick more than 25 percent of a patch, leaving plenty behind for animals and other foragers. Don’t forget some gear—a basket and a sharp pair of scissors will do, but a favorite item among foraging Swedes is a mushroom knife: a short, curved blade with bristles on the other end for gently brushing away the dirt.
Classes and Group Events
An interest in foraged food doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. If you’d prefer a group experience, you might try The Edible Country, an initiative by Visit Sweden that lets you book one of several outdoor group tables to experience a foraged dinner together. The table booking is free, in the spirit of allemansrätten, but you can rent add-ons to make your experience more relaxed, including the option of a personal chef to guide you through gathering and cooking. The table most local to Stockholm is on the island of Utӧ, located in the Stockholm archipelago.
If an indoor experience is better suited to your preferences, you can book a cooking class with Swedish Taste, where you will have the opportunity to prepare a four-course meal celebrating seasonal ingredients like mushrooms or berries. Don an apron, grab a snack and a drink, and enjoy cooking dinner under the supervision of professional chefs. When finished, the class will have a friendly group dinner with wines chosen by their sommelier.
Foraging and New Nordic Cuisine
It’s also totally possible to experience traditional Swedish cuisine without doing any of it yourself. As the New Nordic movement, which emerged in the mid-2000s and was spearheaded by Danish chef Claus Meyer, continues to dominate local food scenes all over Scandinavia, high-quality restaurants from casual to fine dining have popped up to provide the best of what Sweden has to offer.
A star of the New Nordic scene is Ekstedt (Humlegårdsgatan 17, map) where all of the cooking is done in a wood-fired oven. There are no electric or gas gadgets to speak of, and the menu is crafted to celebrate the wild roots of Swedish food (as with the oysters pictured above). The owner, chef Niklas Ekstedt, decided to refocus his career in his 30s, leaving molecular gastronomy behind in favor of more rustic flavors that celebrate his homeland of Jämtland in northern Sweden.
Konstnärsbaren (Smålandsgatan 7, map) is a Stockholm classic that’s been around since 1931. Here, you can count on a new menu each day and experience truly classic Swedish flavors, including plenty of mushrooms. The restaurant has a unique atmosphere that attracts a diverse crowd and is a popular place to eat before visiting the theater.
There are plenty of more casual options in Stockholm as well. Kalf & Hansen (Mariatorget 2, map) offers the “fast food” version of New Nordic cuisine, pictured above. Traditional Swedish meatballs are baked right in front of you and served on a bed of seasonal vegetables, with freshly baked bread or mashed potatoes and a sauce of your choice. The restaurant is tiny and laid-back, so it’s the perfect place to sample some more budget-friendly, 100 percent organic dishes while you people-watch.
Whether you’re an avid outdoors person, you just want to give foraging a try, or you’d firmly prefer a low-key, indoors foraged-food experience, there’s a way for you to delve into Sweden’s foraging culture right within Stockholm. In anticipation of your visit, välkomna till Sverige!
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About the author: Danielle Dubay-Betters is a freelance writer and founder of Say Yes to Stockholm, a style and travel blog celebrating Scandinavian design and lifestyle. When she’s not writing, you can find Danielle exploring Sweden with her husband. Follow the adventure on her blog or Instagram.