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ELECTRICITY

Housing costs cause Swedish inflation spike

A substantial increase in housing costs and higher prices for electricity and food raised Sweden's inflation rate to the unexpectedly high level of 2.3 percent in December, exceeding the central bank's, the Riksbank's, target.

Housing costs cause Swedish inflation spike
English house in Helsingborg's Tågaborg district in Skåne, January 2009

Inflation stood at 1.8 percent in November. Consumer prices rose by 0.7 percent from November to December, according to Statistics Sweden.

However, as a Nordea analyst pointed out, the prices for electricity, food and accommodation typically increase during the fall and winter.

“It also contributes to rising inflation expectations,” said Torbjörn Isaksson, chief analyst at Nordea, on Thursday.

A new round of wage negotiations is also expected in the autumn of 2011.

“There are things for the Riksbank to think about,” said Isaksson.

In the immediate course of events, he believes that inflation will retreat somewhat when electricity prices fall ahead of the spring. However, oil and food prices will continue to rise, in line with global values.

“I think we will see even higher food prices in the future,” said Isaksson.

Analysts had, according to a Reuters poll, on average expected a rise in consumer prices of 0.45 percent in December and an inflation rate of 2.15 percent.

The inflation rate is the average change in consumer prices in the last 12 months.

The underlying December inflation rates according to the CPIF and CPIX measures were 2.3 percent and 2 percent. The monthly change in both cases was 0.6 percent, the agency reported.

Higher housing costs contributed to the higher inflation rate by 1.4 percentage points, higher electricity prices by 0.6 percentage points and higher interest expenses by 0.5 percentage points. Rising food prices contributed an additional 0.4 percentage points.

However, the inflation figure was somewhat lower than Swedish bank Handelsbanken’s economists had expected. Electricity prices, 15 percent higher than a year ago, were behind much of the rise in inflation.

“Electricity prices rose even more than we anticipated,” said Anna Råman, an economist at Handelsbanken, on Thursday.

The agency’s figures supported Handelsbanken’s forecast of the Riksbank’s future actions.

“We believe that the Riksbank will raise interest rates at each of its meetings until late 2011,” said Råman.

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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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