Almost exactly one year ago we cut the first sod in our garden. We never dared to dream how richly it provided during the first season. 

We last reported about it four months ago. After that, we could harvest some longer, but we finally had to prepare our garden for the winter. The raked up leaves serve as a warming layer on the patches and protects our young trees from frost. Also, they serve as a home for hedgehogs, insects and others. The leaves are converted by micro organisms and other small animals into hummus, thus strengthen the soil. 

Now, it is quiet in our garden since it is left more or less to itself. However, we still get excited about some small harvests. Red cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, savoy and even some small white cabbages were waiting on the patches to be reaped. At the end of January, we got some herbs and even some small broccolis. Apart from that, we were delighted about our pickled summer vegetables. 

The last grilled and pickled zucchini had to go a few days ago.

However, half dried tomatoes in oil, tomato sauce, pickled cucumbers, jams, dried cherries, our ardently loves apple juice, sauerkraut, and other ferments let us remember a fruitful summer. We keep our fingers crossed that it was not just beginner’s luck, and that we even might increase the outcome next gardening season.

We already made new plans. After a careful check on our seeds, the first were already planted. We are looking forward to telling more about our garden, the growing plants and the harvest. We hope to inspire one or the other to grab a shovel themselves.

Even the tiniest spot can bring you the joy of gardening, and be it just the herbs on the windowsill. Not too long ago, we used every free spot on our balcony to grow herbs and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and peas. Every plucked fruit causes joy.

Are you gardening yourself, or do you plan to do it this year? Tell us about your ideas and thoughts!

What comes to your mind when you think of a healthy pantry? Nuts, legumes, fermented or canned vegetables, self-made marmalades, chutneys, broths, pastes, and all kinds of this stuff, filled in glasses, stocked for use? At least, this is what our pantry looks like. Yet, a much bigger, multyfaceted, surprising and incredibly healthy pantry opens before our eyes: nature! Visit Sweden* wants to call attention to this natural pantry with a special initiative.

 

The Edible Country

 

With ingredients picked straight from nature, the four top chefs Titti Qvarnström, Niklas Ekstedt, Jacob Holmström und Anton Bjuhr created a menu together. The recipes and a detailed manual how to prepare them make it possible for anyone to cook them in nature itself. The initiative is an open invitation to dive into Sweden’s landscape and to enjoy its variety.

It shall bring us closer to what was natural once: the knowledge about wild growing, edible plants. The project wants to show, how easy and accessible healthy food can be. Berries, mushrooms, herbs and much more grows in Sweden’s fabulous and diverse environment. You just have to grab it.

For us, the idea behind The Edible Country could be a base to place confidence again into the grapes of nature. Do you, too, hear your parents warn you “Don’t eat wild berries! The fox tapeworm is life-threatening!” This way, you suck in a fear of nature starting in your childhood. Sure, you should know what you do, and not start collecting without background knowledge, but is this not the key? Imparting knowledge instead of warnings and restraints? Isn’t it absurd that we rely more on what the industry serves us in the supermarkets instead of on the origin of our food, and on the most natural way to collect and process them ourselves? Just this process is balm for the soul.

As part of an international group we were the first to experience The Edible Country right away. With the instruction of our experienced guide Pontus we roamed the woods of Småland to collect mushrooms for the menu. This alone was a highlight and worth the travel. With our full baskets we went deeper into the woods to cook a menu with two of the top chefs. We were especially looking forward to cooking on open fire in the woods. You know how much we love preparing our food like this. How wonderful the experience would be, we only got to know when we saw the little valley from the top of the hill. Amidst the moss-grown stones a beautifully set table was waiting for us. Next to it, flames were already licking in the fire bowls, and all the collected ingredients, berries, herbs and mushrooms were ready to cook. We did not believe our eyes!

It was a bit mean, actually. On the one hand, we could not let go of our cameras. On the other hand, we wanted to be in the middle of it all, to experience the preparation and cooking, chopping ourselves and ask thousands of questions. Thankfully, we are two and could split and rotate.

Still, we could have extended this experience for a few hours or even days. When do you have the chance to cook together with top chefs?

The three dishes we prepared together were surprising and extraordinary, despite or maybe because of the few ingredients and the simple preparation over the open fire. For us vegetarians there was broth from the woods with spring water, various mushrooms and herbs with browned butter as appetizer.
Chanterelles, juniper berries and common sorrel were the main course. Acorns and hazel nut crumble with wild fruits and stewed berries were the sweet finish. Apart from aromas from the woods, we only seasoned with butter, salt, and honey. You don’t need more to be completely soulful afterwards.

It is incredible how much inspiration we gathered within a few hours. Be it the insight that field penny-cress, which grows in front of our door, is pretty tasty, or that you can serve wild herbs like yarrow as dessert. That for a strong broth you don’t need more than a few mushrooms and herbs, or that acorns, after cooking them a few times, are actually edible and taste fantastically…

 

It was an unforgettable experience for us. We are incredible thankful that we were part of this project and were able to see Sweden’s uniqueness. Even if the top chefs came together for this event and usually cook in their own restaurants instead of in the woods, it is possible for everyone to experience such a dinner in this special environment. In Sweden, everyman’s right is a basic rule. A respectful contact with nature granted, everyone is allowed to roam the countryside. This way, and following the recipes and instructions of the chefs, you can collect the ingredients yourself and cook the dish wherever you like.

Alternatively, you can book seven handmade wooden tables with ready cooking gear from May to September. These tables are spread at special spots all over Sweden: Skåne, Western Sweden, Lapland, Jämtland, Småland, Stockholm Archipelago, and Värmland.

Who think he or she is not capable of collecting the ingredients on their own can book an experienced guide who will show you the collection sites and answers all questions about nature. 

More information about this wonderful project you find on the website of Visit Sweden.

When special people come to visit there has to be special food, too. For us, a certain cake is extraordinary: the Naked Cake. Usually, we keep it pretty basic with „Granny’s Cakes“ like crumble cake of all sorts, sheet cakes, etc. Thus, we relied on one of our classics for this recipe. A moist carrot cake with lots of nuts, dried apricots and other delicious details. We love how variable it is. Be it in a spring form or a whole tray for larger groups, or as cupcakes, be it vegan with aquafaba and cashew creme, or not vegan with a cream cheese topping, as in this case. The cake is just too delicious to not experiment with it. The basic recipe you find in our cookbook.

Beside the cake we wanted to create an unique setting for our kaffeeklatsch with our friends Jules, Maria and Justus from Herz & Blut.

After the last plants left the greenhouse a few weeks ago it was time to use it as living space once again. Sure, in winter with outside temperatures around freezing point, the temperatures inside the greenhouse never rise above 10-15°C. The days are just too short. At least, the cold wind and the moisture stay outside. Wrapped in woolen pullovers and scarfs, and with a lot of candles the atmosphere still gets really cosy. Especially, when the sun sets spectacularly just as it did this particular evening.

Even if we could plant salads during winter, or sow the green manure, we just love to use the greenhouse for ourselves outside the gardening season. Until it is time to sow the young plants and it is warm enough to bring them into the greenhouse in early spring, we will take this opportunity.

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