The time of transition between winter and spring is dreamily beautiful and incredible. Nature changes every day when she awakens from her winter sleep. Here in the countryside we see it even more. Every new little plant sprouting from the soil is marvelled at. Even a simple deadnettle with her soft violet blossoms becomes an attraction. Beside these little joys big feelings grow, too. When the sun tickles the frost from the grass, for example, and the scenery is covered in fog soon after, from which cranes rise, telling you full-throatedly of their existence. It is incredibly fascinating to watch these elegant animals, which are bustling on the field in front of our house since a few days. To wake up like this every morning makes all the little things you rack your brain about during the day seem so unimportant.

Natures euphoric mood wakens our own thirst for action to finally start preparing our garden. Last spring, we prepared patches for weeks, dug them up and edged them. This new gardening season should have less preparation. We planned on relying on the already built structures, just loosen up the earth a bit and pluck some weed, which made itself a home over the winter. 

However, we decided shortly to change this plan and to set up a completely new vegetable garden and to give our property a new structure. We fell in love with the idea to combine vegetable garden and green house. It shortens the ways and also makes it easier to care for the plants. So again, we started at zero and had to convert weeded grassland into bed plots. This time, however, not by hand but we brought in the big guns. How nice it is to call helpful gardeners with the necessary machines our friends.

Olaf Schnelle grows heirloom vegetables, herbs and wild plants. We especially love the ferments he prepares from his harvest. Carrot in elderflower, ringed beet with woodruff, sauerkraut with grand fir, celery with quince, or beet root with currant wood are only a few of them. And all of them are delicious and on top of that very healthy. 

Next to his vegetable fields, Olaf has a beautiful garden around his farmhouse with a thatched roof. During our first visit we could not believe it is the same size as our own. It feels way more spacious. As a trained landscaper, Olaf knows the little and the big tricks, and with a lot of sensitiveness, he created beautiful places in his garden. We were so inspired we asked him to help us to bring some structure into our 3000m² property. It is not that easy to plan years ahead and to envision how the plants will develop. Thus, we are thankful for all the ideas, the great support, and of course for the culinary inspiration Olaf gave us. People like him are a big part of why we feel so comfortable here in Mecklenburg.

Despite professional machines we still needed our own muscles. Around our green house we created an area of 150m² productive land, on which we want to grow all sorts of vegetables, but also some perennials. The old spot we grew our vegetables on will be used as a further potato field. However, bit by bit we want to convert this part around our barn into a nibble garden.

A wild fruit hedge of blackthorn, juneberry, elder berry, seabuckthorn, cornel cherry and other exciting bushes shall form the edge of the property. But also classics like raspberry, blackberry, and gooseberry won’t be missed between the cherry and apple trees. Yet, we will wait until autumn since the berries will grow better, and we want to concentrate on our vegetable garden for now, anyway. 

To structure our vegetable garden we decided to build some raised beds. The larch wood was cut in the sawmill for us, so with drill and screwdriver we had 7 beds in the blink of an eye. Beside being a structure element for our garden, they shall protect the plants from pests, especially voles. For that, we installed a close-meshed wire on the bottom of the boxes. We will see if it works and if we will have more of fennel, celery and other vegetables the little mice are hungry for. Try and learn, that’s our motto for gardening. This way, we had, apart from our success, also some failures during our first gardening season last year, from which we now benefit by improving and optimizing our system (hopefully!).

Part of that is the irrigation, for example. For the energy and irrigation in our green house, Yannic dug a 60 centimeter deep and 50 meter long trench. What a work! But now we can easily access water from water outlets and don’t have to work with kilometers long hoses. Furthermore, this new systems gives us the opportunity of an automatic irrigation like dripping hoses in our green house.  

Not only the preparation of our patches is in full work, we also started growing the young plants a few weeks ago. After being pretty late with everything last year, we wanted to be better prepared this year. Some of the plants like paprika are ready to be pricked. 

Since we can’t keep all of the young plants in our house anymore, we built a little green house in our green house. With the help of a heating mat we can keep the temperature at a rather constant level, so the little plants won’t freeze over night. The energy expenditure is rather low since we only have to heat a little space instead of the whole green house. Plus, a wonderful climate evolves in the little green house, so the plants don’t have to be watered as often. It is great to start the whole propagation in our green house. Dry and protected from the wind, we have enough space to work and the young plants get the best exposure to light. Even if caring for the plant children has a lot to do with watching for us it feels great to finally work a bit more professional to have the best conditions for a rich harvest. 

The reason for all our work with the propagation of seed are the unusual and heirloom varieties we can grow this way. For us it is important to get the seed from our region since the seeds were taken from plants that are used to the climate and conditions. They should feel home right away in our garden and not be surprised by the raw climate in Mecklenburg. But every season has their surprise, no matter how well you are prepared. We take a pot luck how this season goes on and of course we keep you updated.

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.

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