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Sweden’s seven delicious food dates you must put in your diary for 2021

These are the food events you should stir into your schedule in Sweden.

Sweden's seven delicious food dates you must put in your diary for 2021
Put these dates in your food calendar. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
1. Fat Tuesday
 
In winter it never seems like a bad idea to fill up on sugar and carbohydrates, but the semla bun has a special place in freezing February. The small wheat flour snacks, flavoured with cardamom and packed with whipped cream and almond paste are traditionally eaten on what is known as fettisdag or Fat Tuesday in Sweden and Shrove Tuesday in other Christian countries. The custom started when people ate the sweet treats during a last feast before the Christian fasting period of Lent got under way.
 

 
2. Waffle Day
 
Waffles are consumed on March 25th in Sweden, which is known as Våffeldagen. The name comes from the Christian Vårfrudagen (Our Lady's Day), which in Swedish sounds almost like Våffeldagen (waffle day), but it is no longer linked to any religious events. The date historically marks the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. People gorge on the griddled cakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as an afternoon fika snack.
 

Waffles, waffles, waffles, waffles, waffles. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
 
3. Crayfish season premiere
 
When the nights get warm and balmy in Sweden (usually for a matter of weeks), Swedes get together to mark the start of the crayfish season. The boiled seafood is usually accompanied by some Swedish schnapps and hearty singing. Crayfish have been eaten in Sweden since the sixteenth century, with the tradition of an annual August crayfish feast beginning in the 1900s.
 

Swedes eat the most crayfish in the world. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
 
4. Cinnamon Bun Day
 
Swedes love their cinnamon buns so much they even gave the baked goods their own annual day – kanelbullens dag – which is marked on October 4th each year.
 
The holiday was invented in 1999 by the Home Baking Council (Hembakningsrådet), a club of baking ingredient producers now run by Danish sugar company Dansukker. The company wanted to create a baking tradition in honour of its 40th anniversary. Click here to find out how to make your own.
 

Cinnamon buns can be eaten year round, but are particularly popular on October 4th. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
 
5. King Gustav II Adolf
 
Creamy sponge cakes decorated with marzipan or chocolates silhouettes of King Gustav II Adolf are eaten in memory of the Swedish monarch on November 6th. He was killed at the Battle of Lützen in 1632. The royal is widely regarded as having laid down much of the apparatus of the modern Swedish state, including the postal service, universities and key transport links.
 

King Gustav II Adolf (or the sponge cake in his name) is honoured every year on November 6th. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
 
6. Christmas Eve
 
Often the biggest feast of the year, regional dishes are popular at Christmas time in Sweden, so expect fish if you are invited to a coastal town or reindeer in northern Sweden.
 
 
Many families put together a platter or smörgåsbord of foods including ham, pork sausage, an egg and anchovy mixture (called gubbröra), herring salad, pickled herring, home-made liver pâté and potatoes. A more controversial ingredient is lutfisk, a dried fish soaked in water and lye to swell before it is cooked. 
 

A Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
 
7. Pancake Day
 
No we're not talking about Shrove Tuesday again, the date in February when many people around the world eat pancakes. In Sweden, every Thursday is pancake day, with many Swedes enjoying a small version of the snack for lunch, usually with a pea soup as a prelude. The tradition goes back hundreds of years. Swedes serve their sweet pancakes with whipped cream, sugar or berries.
 

Pea soup and pancakes are a traditional Thursday dinner. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
 
Article written by Maddy Savage in 2014 and updated in 2020.
 

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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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