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SUMMER

Eight berries and flowers you’re free to pick in Sweden’s forests

Foraging for seasonal berries during summer is a Swedish tradition that's as old as time. Ready to set off off into the forest, wicker basket in hand, and start scouring for some sweet treats? This guide from The Local should get you started.

Eight berries and flowers you're free to pick in Sweden's forests
Berry-picking in action. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

With over half of Sweden covered in forest, there are plenty of spots to satisfy your foraging needs. And thanks to ‘Allemansrätten’, the legally enshrined right of public access, everyone has the right to roam freely through Sweden’s beautiful nature (with the obvious exceptions of homes and private gardens). Foraging in the forest is completely legal, provided you treat nature with respect and give consideration to the person or animal who will be next to roam through the area.

As summer arrives so does the season of wild berries, known to be much sweeter than shop-bought ones, not to mention 100 percent organic, and free! What’s not to love about being outdoors, at one with nature, seeing the beauty of the forest and eating sweet berries as you walk along?

Lingonberries

Lingonberries are small red berries that are often quite bitter when eaten raw, but when combined with sugar they produce a jam that’s popular in Sweden to accompany meat and fish. The berries grow on small bushes in woodlands starting from late July through to September.

READ ALSO: How to make sweetened lingonberries


Lingonberries. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix

Bilberries: European blueberries

The most bountiful berry in Sweden, the bilberry or European blueberry (different from but related to the larger North American blueberry), can be found almost anywhere from alongside roads to deep in the forest. They tend to grow in big patches on shrubs that are low to the ground and have dark, almond-shaped leaves. Bilberries are usually the earliest berry to harvest and come in season from mid-July to August.


Blueberries. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix

Raspberries

If you’re hoping to harvest some raspberries then make sure to look out for a spot of open space in the forest, as the bushes grow best when in full sunlight. Similar to blueberries, raspberries are ample in mid-July through to August.


Raspberries. Photo: Paul Kleiven/NTB scanpix

Cloudberries

Cloudberries look very similar to their cousin, the raspberry, but are smaller and orange. These come in season slightly later, from August until September, and are not as common. So if you come across some on your foraging travels, make sure not to pass the opportunity up to pick some.


Cloudberries. Photo: Lise Åserud/NTB scanpix

Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries are much smaller, sweeter, and harder to find than regular strawberries, but they are very much worth the hunt. They can be found on bushes in the forests between early June through to July.

READ ALSO: Sweet news for Sweden’s strawberry fans


Wild Strawberries. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Blackberries

The larger the blackberry, the sweeter the taste, so if you’re on the hunt for some then make sure to pick out the biggest of the bunch. They grow on thorny bushes and are in season from mid-July to early September.


Blackberries. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/TT

Elderflower

Though elderberries aren’t the greatest tasting berry out there, the same cannot be said about their flower – it can be used to produce a traditional, fresh cordial. Elder often grows in hedgerows near ditches and is in bloom in early summer from late May until the end of June.


Elderflower. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Nettles

Berries aren’t the only thing the forest has to offer in summer, as nettles are also a popular pick for those who come across them. Not many know that nettles are in fact edible, nutritious and lovely in a soup. When foraging nettles, it is suggested to pick the top four leaves of the plant when it is most in season, which tends to be in early spring. But make sure to put gloves on before touching them as they can sting and irritate your skin.


Nettles. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Apart from stinging nettles, there aren’t many plants that are dangerous to touch, most are only poisonous if you eat them. “Going out into the forest in Sweden is not a hazardous adventure. If you want to eat things you need to be certain that the plant or mushroom you pick is edible,” Sofia Blomquist from the Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen) told The Local.

It is important to remember when out in the forest to make sure you do not disturb the surrounding nature. When picking berries, make sure to leave enough berries for the next person or animal who comes along looking for them. It’s best to use scissors when collecting stuff rather than pulling at the root and potentially harming the plant.

Nature reserves and national parks will often have their own rules, so look out for signs that tell you whether or not you are allowed to pick wild berries and plants.

READ ALSO: Seven of the best places to wild camp in Sweden this summer

There are a few plants that are not free to take, such as spruce buds or birch-sap, so if you come across something you are unsure about, make sure to research and confirm that you are allowed to harvest it before you take it. Other than that, happy foraging!

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EDUCATION

How the shake-up of Sweden’s school curriculum could affect your children

Sweden's National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has presented proposals for changes to the school curriculum. Here's what parents need to know about the plans.

How the shake-up of Sweden's school curriculum could affect your children
Here's what parents and teachers should know about planned changes to the school curriculum. Photo: Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/imagebank.sweden.se

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

The curriculum currently in place has been largely unchanged since 2011, and have received criticism from teachers, students and their parents that grading criteria can be hard to interpret.

The proposed changes have been split into three areas: changing knowledge requirements, better adapted central content, and an increased emphasis on factual knowledge.

Most of the proposals relate to the grundskola, Sweden's compulsory school which pupils attend for ten years between the ages of 6 and 16, but there are also updates for the gymnasieskola (the three-year high school), adult education, and schools for pupils who are hard of hearing or have other special educational needs.

NEW RANKING: Are these the best areas for schools in Sweden?

Changes have been put forward for the subjects which are compulsory (Visual Arts, Biology, English, Physics, Geography, Home and Consumer Education, History, Sport, Chemistry, Maths, Modern Languages, Music, Religious Education, Social Education, Crafts, Swedish, and Technology) as well as some subjects which are only taught in certain schools and/or to certain groups of students: Mother-tongue education, Swedish as a second language, Sign language, Sami, and Jewish Studies.

Skolverket said its main aims in these suggestions were to put more emphasis on factual knowledge, to improve accuracy in grading, and to adapt core content since teachers reported difficulties in teaching all compulsory areas within the time they had.

CAREERS: How to work as a teacher in Sweden


Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Controversy over ancient history

The agency has, however, already scrapped one idea which was initially part of the proposal: to scrap ancient history from the curriculum. It had initially explained the decision by saying that there were not enough teaching hours for history to cover all the content currently included in the curriculum; during the three years of högstadiet, there are roughly 25 teaching hours for history each year. But after widespread criticism, the agency announced just a few days later that it would keep ancient history and find an alternative solution.

“Everyone has agreed that there are not enough hours for the subject of history. We chose, as one of several possible solutions, to remove ancient history [from the curriculum]. There have been many reactions, but those we listen to above all are history teachers and we can already see that we need to find another solution,” Anna Westerholm, head of Skolverket's curriculum department, said in a statement.

She admitted that finding an appropriate solution would be “a hard nut to crack”.

Skolverket reiterated that retaining the current history syllabus was “not an option” and has called for input from history teachers.

PARENTING IN SWEDEN:

A change to grading 

The grading system itself would not be changed under the proposals, but Skolverket hopes that the grading process will become more fair and accurate. Swedish grades are awarded from A-F, with A the highest grade and A-E all counted as 'pass' grades. These grades are awarded at the end of each school term (only in the subjects the student was taught in that term, and during högstadiet only at the end of a course), starting with the autumn term of Grade 6. 

The agency plans to change so-called 'knowledge requirements' (kunskapskraven). These are the things which students are required to know in order to receive a certain grade, and Skolverket said the current system led to students getting very low grades just because certain details of the knowledge requirements weren't met.


Photo: Jonas Ekströmer / TT

For example, rather than requiring students to show how the “social, media, judicial, economic and political structures in society” are structured and how they function (as in the current syllabus for social studies), they will be required to show “knowledge of conditions and structures in society” and give examples of “connections within and between different social structures”.

So in the new proposals, knowledge requirements are “less extensive, contain fewer details and are formulated in a simpler way”, Skolverket said. This is intended to ensure students receive grades that accurately reflect their understanding of a subject, and that teachers can focus less on having to teach specific details in order to reach a grade.

The knowledge requirements are outlined for grades A, C, and E only. A B grade is awarded if students meet all of the requirements for C and some of those for A, while a D grade is awarded if students meet all of the requirements for E and some of those for C, and an F grade is given if a student does not meet the requirements for E.

Knowledge over abilities

One change that occurs throughout the proposed curriculum is a greater use of the term “knowledge of” rather than the term “ability to”. This change is meant to increase the emphasis on subject knowledge. This change has been made mostly in the lower grades, based on research showing that children improve their skills to reason and analyze as they get older.

Call for feedback

Skolverket has requested feedback on its proposals, particularly from teachers, which can be submitted via its website.

After this referral period ends on October 23rd, the agency will make adjustments and submit its final proposals in December to the government, which is ultimately responsible for making any changes to the school curriculum.

Any changes which are introduced will apply from the start of the academic year 2020/21, although students who begin grade 9 that year (or grade 10 in schools for those with special educational needs) may complete their grundskola education according to the existing syllabuses.

You can read more on Skolverket's website (in Swedish only) and submit your feedback to the agency here.

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