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September in Sweden: Forest foods, politicians return, birds leave

The Local · 3 Sep 2009, 11:25

Published: 03 Sep 2009 11:25 GMT+02:00

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“Proud spring arises; the weak call it autumn.” Turn-of-the-20th-century poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt was oiling his hiking boots when he wrote that. Autumn is when the Swedish brain clicks into warpspeed: ideas are born, books are opened, DIY seriously considered, evening classes thirsting for discoveries launch. A brief mourning period for the brief summer ends abruptly.

The woods are full of blueberries/bilberries, cloudberries and the prince of them all, the lingonberry or cowberry. It is a little cousin of the cranberry family, used as a savoury preserve. Try it with pan-fried Baltic herring.

The benzoic acid in the berry is a natural preservative, and lingon is time-honoured as a summer berry easily kept for winter use. Widespread poverty prompted Swedish ingenuity to use pickling, drying, curing, smoking and fermenting to store food. A common modern trick is to marinate raw salmon, gravlax.

(Gravlax recipe. Buy a chunk of filet. Extract any bones with tweezers. Rub with equal units of sugar and salt and half a unit of chopped dill. Plastic-bag it in your fridge, turning occasionally, for 2-3 days. Scrape off marinade. Skin, cut into cutlets and garnish with fresh dill. Lemon boats alongside.)

Like their cranberry cousins, lingonberries are harvested in the forest with small rakes. Wily entrepreneurs fly in teams of pickers from as far off as Thailand and China.

September is wild mushroom season. Hunting and picking them is a national infatuation. The fungi have wondrous names: Parasol mushroom, Horn of Plenty, Shaggy ink cap, Saffron milk cap, Woolly milk cap. Dinner favourites are the Cep, the Morel and the Chanterelle. Watch out for the deadly Fly agaric and the instructively named Death cap.

Mushroomers say their hikes through dripping forests, mud underfoot, are escapades into nature. They come back beaming.

It’s the beginning of the apple and pear harvest. Swedes accept as gospel that Swedish apples are superior to those of any other geography. It’s a good argument, considering the delicate Transparant Blanche, the crisp Åkerö and the fragrant Aroma.

Every fourth year in September, voters can choose national candidates for the single-chamber Riksdag as well as regional and local government. Parties need 4 percent of the popular vote for Riksdag representation. Voting is proportional, so policy often takes precedence over individuals’ profiles. Election campaigns are brief. The most conspicuous sign is the (detachable) posters on city lampposts and handrails. On the day, about 70 percent of eligible voters stuff their three envelopes with the coloured lists available from officials or, as you approach the polling station, from volunteers or even political celebrities. Respect for politics and politicians shifts, but single-issue or malcontent parties have difficulty surviving. Just under half of all parliamentarians are women.

In the south, the deciduous trees are turning yellow and red. But 80 percent of Sweden’s trees are spruce (Picea) with needle-like evergreen foliage. Well over half the country is covered by forest. The tallest tree is the pine. Sweden’s greatest natural resource (alongside iron ore) came from Asia before the Ice Age. The great forestry barons, entering banquet halls on horseback, are no more, but paper is still a mainstay industry. Way back, woodcutters used to slash pines a year before felling. This induced the tree to produce extra resinous sap to heal the wound, giving durable timber.

Story continues below…

September is a month of several seasons. Summer lingers on the plains and littorals of the southern provinces, but it’s autumn for most of the rest and already winter in the highlands of Lapland. Temperatures diverge by as much as 40 degrees Celsius. In Europe only Russia has such a latitude span. Birds are taking off literally and figuratively for the south. At least 90 percent leave, the arctic tern taking three months for its trip all the way to the Southern Ocean. It’ll be back.

The Year in Sweden by Kim Loughran is on sale now at the AdLibris online bookstore.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

00:06 September 7, 2009 by lingonberrie
Yes, the "prince of them all" the ligonberry, and yes, the Swedish apples are superior, as are all of the Swedish berries, and the milk.

Anyone who does not know the difference between the mushrooms has no business going into the woods to collect them.

Why are the "teams" from Thailand and China allowed to come into Sweden to harvest what rightfully belongs to all Swedes?

Are the "wily entrepeneurs" who fly them into Sweden really from Wall Street?
10:38 September 8, 2009 by LudwigJohansson
I agree with Lingonberrie.

Sadly not many go out and visit the forest to pick berries any longer, mostly elders....its dying tradition thanks to the materialism.

Long live the superior germanic berries from Sweden!
03:06 September 9, 2009 by lingonberrie
Perhaps. There has been one form of materialism or other for decades on end. The major form exists in the United States, but that is not limited to that country anymore, thanks to them.

The roots of the real problem lie with those who have had life so easy that going into the woods to do anything but play is beyond them.

That is as true in Sweden, et al, as that is in the United States, where in the latter most of them are so fat that a good day in the woods, hiking, working, or spending the time and effort to pick berries would be a death sentence.

Swedes should take note that the so-called "good life" is a trap from which the only exit is an early death, and one full of the drugs to stay alive, as most take to do so in the United States. They have no health insurance, so their early demise is assured.

The worker-bees in the United States are an expendable commodity for the wealthy--who those bees have kept wealthy until that day when the burned-out worker-bees die. There are millions to take their place.
18:57 September 10, 2009 by yocsmotel
Ligonberrie, I hope you have a great day looking down on Americans. If you are thinking that much about us, we must be doing something right. We do work very hard, but please don't worry so much about us. We'll always be here for you, ready to fight fascism. It is reassuring to know that socialized medicine has made you immmortal. To paraphrase Lynderd Skynerd--"An American Man don't need you around, anyhow."

23:53 September 12, 2009 by superturbo
hmmm.. I can't say that I ever tasted any good tasting swedish apples... hmmm The smaller ones are a bit better though, but not really that good.
22:40 November 1, 2009 by ekaterina kotlar
I swear sometimes you swedes just dont know how good you have it...

i will be picking berries soon!

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