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CANDY

Sweet tooth: Why are the Swedes obsessed with candy?

In this guest blog post, American Kevin Buckley sinks his teeth into one of Sweden's most peculiar traditions: lördagsgodis.

Sweet tooth: Why are the Swedes obsessed with candy?
Candy, or 'godis' in Swedish. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB scanpix/TT

After living in Stockholm for a year and a half, one thing has become crystal clear to me: Swedes are born with an insatiable sweet tooth. Swedes take their sweets seriously… very seriously. In fact, their confectionery consumption is a rich part of their culture.

First of all, there is the most quintessential Swedish experience of fika. This is a quick break taken during the day to enjoy a coffee and a small sweet treat.

In 2016, the average Swede ate 23.1 pounds of candy according to this article, making Sweden the country with the 7th highest per capita candy consumption (say that five times fast).

This does not surprise me at all. American readers may know of the little candy stores in US malls where you grab a shovel, fill a bag full of candy, and weigh it? Every store, gas station, movie theatre and you-name-it in Sweden has one of these. One day, I was talking to my Swedish landlord who is currently living in America. I asked him how the States were treating him and if he missed home. He replied simply: “I miss the candy.”

Beware: Swedes also have an obsession for salty liquorice, so proceed with caution!

Most of this candy is eaten on one special day of the week: lördagsgodis or Candy Saturday. Possibly in an attempt to remain lagom – enjoying just enough without over indulging – Swedes limit the majority of their candy consumption to Saturdays. This seems to cause children and adults alike to anticipate and appreciate lördagsgodis even more.

READ ALSO: Seven delicious food dates in Sweden


Kevin and JoEllen Buckley in front of a traditional Swedish Dala Horse. Photo: Private

Lördagsgodis is not the only special day associated with a sweet treat. Swedes have a few calendar days throughout the year when one MUST enjoy a certain Swedish pastry. Coming up soon is my wife JoEllen's favourite: Semla Day, celebrated on Fat Tuesday. Imagine a mini bread bowl of soup, but sweet and filled with whipped cream and almond paste and topped with powdered sugar.

During the darkest week of the year, Sweden celebrates St Lucia. This day is filled with music that allows Swedes to commiserate in the darkness while looking forward to the bright days to come. On St Lucia everyone must eat a few luciabullar. Though these pastries are not very sweet they are flavoured with saffron and two raisins.

Most importantly, there is kanelbullens dag, Cinnamon Bun Day, on October 4th, celebrated since the time after World War One when rationed food started to make its way back into Swedish homes.

The kanelbullar are definitely the most beloved pastry in Sweden; supposedly the average Swede eats 316 of these a year. Appropriately, the first kanelbullar I ever had was on kanelbullens dag and it was an eye-opening experience. Instead of being covered in icing, these rolls are sprinkled with sugar crystals and jam packed with cinnamon. YUM!

So the next time you are at the mall and see one of the little candy stores, consider picking out a few colourful treats and enjoy them on Saturday!

Kevin and JoEllen Buckley moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to Stockholm two years ago. Read their blog here. Do you want to write a guest blog post for The Local? E-mail [email protected].

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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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