Foraging – a Scandinavian Art Form

Growing up in Sweden I spent a lot of time outdoors.

In the winter we’d go skiing and ice skating and in the summer it was all about the sea. Either on the island or heading to a beach near our house.

I’m very fortunate to have spent many summers on our family island in the beautiful Swedish archipelago, on the east coast, a few hours south of Stockholm.

My dad is a fisherman and so the island was always a part of my life. It’s been in the family for generations and I kind of always took it for granted until I moved away… It truly is a magical place and I’ll tell you more about the island in another blog post.

And as with so many other Swedes, and Scandinavians in general, another popular leisure activity is foraging.

We forage all year round, but mainly in August when the mushrooms come out of hiding.

Mum, my brother and I would venture into the woods in the morning, equipped with a picnic basket, a pocket knife and a pastry brush – for cleaning the mushrooms on the spot – and a thermos of hot chocolate. Mum taught us which mushrooms to pick and how to prepare, cook and preserve them.

I absolutely adore mushrooms. In particular the “gold

of the forest” – Chanterelles. Is there anything more tasty than some beautiful Chanterelles cooked simply in some butter on toasted Rye bread? If you’ve not tried this then you must give it a try. You can get Chanterelles from most supermarkets.

Picking mushrooms isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’d spend hours trying to find mushrooms and other times you’d stumble across a little meadow nestled amongst the trees and the ground would be covered by the little beautiful gold trinkets.

Funny thing: Ask any Swede and they will most likely have their own secret mushroom spot…

Disclaimer: they may not want to share the location of their secret mushroom spot!! First rule of the Mushroom spot. You don’t talk about the Mushroom spot.

We’d also pick blueberries and lingonberries (a berry similar to cranberry in taste). Wild strawberries, black berries and juniper berries. Strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb in the summer along with all the glorious herbs on offer.

I should probably also mention that in Sweden there’s a law called “Allemansrätten” – “The Right of Public Access.” It basically means you can roam freely anywhere (apart from on private land, 70 meters of a dwelling or cultivated land), and you’re allowed to put up a tent, swim and catch fish in lakes, pick up flowers, mushrooms and berries. It’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

I’m really looking forward to taking my husband and kids foraging. My kids adore going into the woods in search for the “forest gold”.

Once we’re back from the woods everyone gets involved with cooking the mushrooms. I make stews, soups, mushroom on toast, as a side with steak… I also dry some of the mushrooms too use later. Really, the possibilities are endless.

I miss this terribly. It feels so ingrained in the Swedish way somehow. It’s in our DNA. What about you where you come from? Do you have a tradition like this? Do you do any foraging? I’ve lived the UK for 17 years now and I’ve never been foraging here. Then again, maybe there’s a similar unspoken rule about “we don’t talk about our favourite blackberry spot!”

Simple recipe for you:

1. Clean the mushrooms properly and prepare for frying. They’re from the forest so there’ll always be some dirt and whatnot stuck to them.

2. Use a good quality butter and get a good sized blob in the pan.

3. Once it sizzles, throw the mushrooms in. There may be a bit of liquid initially as the mushrooms give off liquid.

4. Fry them until they’re beautifully golden brown and add a little bit of salt. Put on a plate with a piece of kitchen roll to remove any excess fat.

5. Butter (optional) your Rye-bread and then pile your mushrooms on top of the bread.

6. Dig in!

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