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FOOD & DRINK

Swedish veg ‘lacks nutrition’

Fruit and vegetables in Swedish stores may look like they are bursting with nutrition, but tests by a national newspaper claims to show that greens sold by the five largest supermarket chains are often lacking in both taste and goodness.

Svenska Dagbladet tested the quality of the fruit and vegetables by examining whether they met the nutritional requirements demanded of fruit juices, measured on the so-called Brix scale. The results of the test were then compared with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s standards.

However, the paper’s methods have been criticised by Sweden’s national food standards agency.

Of the 120 different types of fruit and vegetable tested by the newspaper, 64 were classed as having ‘poor’ levels of vital nutrients, 56 were ‘adequate’, and none were classed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Of the 33 tomatoes tested, 28 contained so much water that they were not good enough to make juice from.

The same was true of 18 out of 24 carrots. Only half of oranges or apples were good enough to make acceptable fruit juice, according to Svenska Dagbladet.

There are no juice standards for cucumbers or peppers, but measuring them against the general norm for fruit and vegetables showed that none of the cucumbers and only one in three peppers were adequate.

The paper also tested produce from the Östermalmshallen market hall in Stockholm, but the greens on sale there were barely more nutritious.

But according to Annica Sohlström at the National Food Administration, the test gives a misleading picture of the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables.

“The Brix scale measures the relationship between sugar and water, and it is a measurement used by juice, wine and sugar producers. But it does not follow that less sweet fruit and vegetables contain fewer nutrients. The sugar content does create differences in taste,” Sohlström said.

She added that the vitamin and mineral content of apples, for instance, can vary depending on the type of apple, the time it was harvested and the kind of soil the apple tree was planted in. There can be big differences in the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables within the same batch.

Sohlström also insisted that her agency’s will continue to advise consumers to eat plent of fruit and vegetables.

“You should eat the fruits or vegetables that you think taste best,” she said.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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