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Eight signs spring has arrived in Sweden

It's beginning to look a lot like spring. Here are eight signs the new season has finally arrived in Sweden.

Eight signs spring has arrived in Sweden
We're pretty sure we saw the sun at least once this week. Photo: Axel Heimken/AP

1. The bikes are back

Everyone knows at least one hardcore cyclist who sticks to two wheels even in the Swedish winter, but for most mere mortals bikes are packed away for at least a few months of the year in exchange for public transport.

When the spring arrives, that changes, as cycle lanes start to fill up and bells start to ring out once more. Shared bike schemes in cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg also start their season, meaning more casual cyclists are back out on the streets now that the weather is favourable. But if you think the bike lane is busy now, wait for the summer…

2. Flowers pop up everywhere

Daffodils are a sign of spring in plenty of countries, but at this time of the year the range of other wild flowers that start to pop up even in the middle of Sweden's cities is striking. Windflower, alpine pennycress and liverleaf (which is far nicer looking than it sounds) bring splashes of blue, purple and white to grassy areas, and windows start to fill with picked or bought flowers that help quickly eliminate any remaining memories of the grey winter. 


Wild flowers at Hornstull, Stockholm. Photo: Beatrice Trodden

3. Lunchtime in the city seems twice as busy

With the winter over and the snow finally gone from large stretches of the country, weekday lunch breaks become a time to rush out from the office to the nearest park, square or green spot and sit in the sun for a half hour or so instead of staring at four walls like you have been for the past six months.

READ ALSO: Seven silly signs winter is over in Sweden

Everyone else has the same idea of course, and Sweden's cities suddenly seem twice as busy. The best spots quickly become sought-after, particularly around midday.

 

Det är vår #nytorget#kaffe#sälkskap

A post shared by Christina Bengtsson (@chben_70) on Apr 2, 2017 at 4:05am PDT

4. Football returns to parks and stadiums

With the ground no longer frozen solid and the temperature mostly in the positive region, kids and adults kicking a ball around the local park is an increasingly common site once the winter is over. The sport also returns to stadiums, as hockey finally cedes ground to the other sport of choice in the Nordic country.

The top football leagues (the Allsvenskan and Damallsvenskan) both run a spring-to-autumn schedule, so the 2017 season is only now starting to kick off while many other European countries are approaching the business end of their schedules. If you haven't already, now is the time to pick a Swedish team to back. 


Djurgården icon Kim Källström makes his return to the club for the 2017 Allsvenskan season. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

5. Street markets make a comeback

Swedes love a loppis (flea market) and progression into spring means it's time to gather all the junk from your storage space, throw it onto a table somewhere outdoors, and hope someone will pay you to take it off your hands and free up some space in the cellar for next year.

An extreme example is the Majorna Megaloppis (Majorna mega market) in Gothenburg, where 100,000 people turned up last May to have their fill of the junk on offer in the western city's hipster district.

READ ALSO: Six secret ways to enjoy Stockholm on a shoestring

Eating options also start to improve now thanks to the bigger street markets bringing food trucks and drinks vendors with them.  So you can grab a burrito or a kathi roll to go with your spring stroll instead of yet another boring sandwich. 

6. Waterway traffic

In the Swedish capital the spring thaw means boats start to pop up all over the city's waterways as people bring them out from storage now that the risk of winter damage is over. The Mälaren feels like it's alive again: the noise of motors or the sight of kayaks confirm the season has changed.

READ ALSO: The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries

In Gothenburg and Malmö meanwhile, tourists start to brave the canal boat tours previously rendered unappealing by the wind and rain as the boating season gets started.

7. Busy bushes

It's a tough life being a bird in Sweden: frozen, harsh, and long winters mean half of the year is a hard slog, so the creatures act understandably chirpier once the sunnier days get going.

Look out for bushes filled with gråsparvar (house sparrows) bustling around hunting for food, or for the tiny birds jumping around near human legs in search of a scrap or two. Which brings us to…


You'll be seeing more of these things in the coming weeks. Photo: Hasse Holmberg

8. Eating outdoors

Sweden's definition of weather appropriate for outdoor eating is a pretty generous one. Midday temperatures have been around the hardly Mediterranean-like 10-11 degree mark in Stockholm so far this week, but tables have already been put out in front of cafes and defiant Swedes have started to dine alfresco – between shivers and sniffles.

READ ALSO: Ten unmissable outdoor venues in Stockholm

In truth, it won’t really be a particularly pleasant experience for at least a month or so, but this is spring in Sweden, dammit, and we eat outdoors.


People have already started to use the outdoor seating at Medborgarplatsen in Stockholm. Photo: Emma Löfgren

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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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