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Dole drops Bananas!* lawsuit

Dole Foods was withdrawn its lawsuit against Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten over a documentary film which the company claimed contained falsehoods which harmed the US food giant.

Dole drops Bananas!* lawsuit

“It’s a really positive development. It’s thanks to the support we’ve received,” Gertten told the TT news agency.

“A court in the US was going to rule on the matter in two weeks. I suspect that Dole realized they had a weak case. They probably thought it was best to pull back before the trial.”

Gertten’s film, Bananas!*, follows attempts by a Los Angeles-based trial lawyer to help thousands of Nicaraguan fruit workers who allege Dole sprayed them with a banned pesticide.

Dole came out strongly against the film, which premiered in Sweden last week, suing Gertten for defamation in the United States in July.

Legal proceedings originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on October 8th had been delayed, and on Thursday morning Dole announced it was dropping the case altogether.

While Dole said it believed it had a strong case, it chose to dismiss the suit because of “the free speech concerns being expressed in Sweden”.

The company maintained, however, that the film was inaccurate.

“While the filmmakers continue to show a film that is fundamentally flawed and contains many false statements we look forward to an open discussion with the filmmakers regarding the content of the film,” C. Michael Carter, Dole’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, said in a statement.

Support for Gertten and his film has grown steadily in Sweden ever since Dole filed the lawsuit, prompting members of parliament from opposing political parties to arrange a special screening of the film.

In addition, several Swedish food companies were considering a boycott of Dole products in response to the lawsuit.

“The support we’ve received from people who’ve sent us money and encouragement has been critical. Having members of the Riksdag take up the issue has also been great and the pressure on Dole has increased,” Gertten told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

News of Dole’s decision reached Gertten on Thursday as he was heading to a meeting with Sweden’s Minister of Culture, Lena Liljeroth Adelsohn, and representatives from several large Swedish grocery chains, to discuss the issue.

While thrilled with the latest twist in his battle with Dole, Gertten stopped short of claiming the matter was fully resolved.

“I haven’t spoken with my lawyer. The damage Dole caused to my film doesn’t go away because of this, and our countersuit remains. We’ll have to see how we’ll proceed,” he told TT.

But one of Gertten’s supporters in the Riksdag was more emphatic in claiming victory.

“Miracles are still possible,” Mats Johansson of the Moderate Party told DN.

Johansson, along with his Social Democratic colleague Luciano Astudillo, arranged for a viewing of Bananas!* in the Riksdag

“It’s unbelievable what we, who are sometimes portrayed as indecisive button-pushers, can achieve: to get a powerful, global multinational company like Dole to change course.”

Nevertheless, Johansson remained concerned about the lawsuit’s long-term consequences for free speech.

“That Dole has dismissed the lawsuit doesn’t change anything. Even if we’re really happy that the threat against Bananas!* is gone, what has happened isn’t an isolated case. It can still happen to others, and that’s something we obviously want to discuss,” he told the newspaper.

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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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