A Private Paradise | Posted: 15 March 2013
Savour delicious seafood on a walking holiday in West Sweden
Steve Jack

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Steve Jack

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A wealth of fruit and berries feature in the cuisine, which you can sample on a walking holiday in West Sweden

The Swedish word smultronstället literally means ‘the place of wild strawberries’. But it has another meaning: a secret, wonderful place – or ‘private paradise’.

And here lies a clue to the almost reverential feeling the Swedes have towards their pristine natural environment, and to the raw ingredients it offers up in such welcome abundance.

Roaming freely in the countryside and foraging for wild berries, mushrooms and herbs is considered not just a popular pastime but an inalienable right, and it’s one that Swedes of all ages and backgrounds are keen to make the most of during those precious summer and autumn months.

While it’s something of a rite-of-passage for the young – at first accompanied by relatives in order to learn which specimens are edible (and, perhaps even more importantly, which are not!) – foraging can be a popular retirement activity, too – a kind of ‘edible gardening’, Indeed, food foraged from the countryside is often referred to as skogens skafferi, 'the larder or pantry of the forest'.

One Swedish grandmother (a much-loved family friend of ours) proudly announced that the chanterelle sauce I was lavishing over my meatballs was the hard-won result of her labour in the local woods earlier that autumn.

As well as an overwhelming number of mushrooms, Sweden’s forests are home to blueberries, cloudberries, lingonberries, rowanberries, elderberries and literally hundreds more varieties – as well as those wild strawberries (the smultron of the smultronstället, which was also the original Swedish title, incidentally, of the Ingmar Bergman film ‘Wild Strawberries’).

Further Information

Sweden’s West Coast

On this thrilling centred walking holiday, discover some of the remarkable islands that make this coastline so alluring.

More about our walking holiday in Sweden >

Gothenburg & West Sweden

To find out more about West Sweden from the locals themselves, take a look at one of our favourite tourist board websites, packed with inspiring videos, stories and useful information.

www.vastsverige.com >

Koster Gardens Restaurant

The Koster Gardens’ website is in Swedish, but use an online translation tool and you can read about the philosophy behind the garden and restaurant.

http://kosterstradgardar.se/ >

Many Swedes have a garden – either at home or at their summer house – in which they cultivate rhubarb; bushes providing redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and garden raspberries; and there may also be trees with apples, pears, plums and cherries.

More ambitious gardeners also grow vegetables and their own herb garden, and the same can now be said for an increasing number of restaurants.

A fine example is The Koster Gardens (Kosters Trädgårdar), occupying an idyllic spot on South Koster Island in West Sweden. Owners Stefan and Helena von Bothmer place great emphasis on growing and raising their own produce, and received the accolade of Sweden’s ‘Sustainable Restaurant of the Year’ in 2012.

Indeed, without meaning to denigrate inland produce such as venison and game from the forests (not to mention some fine regional cheeses) it is the cold, clean waters off West Sweden’s Bohuslän coastline and its myriad islands that are largely responsible for the region’s fast-growing reputation as the 'foodie' mecca of northern Europe. The shellfish here are of supreme quality, especially the marine equivalent of the ‘Big Five’ – prawns, oysters, mussels, crayfish and, of course, lobster.

The small island of Smögen, 100km north of Gothenburg, is thought to bring in the very finest crayfish and prawns, while the oysters (most of which come from the island-dotted strait of Skagerrak near Grebbestad) prompted Paul Bocuse, the celebrated French chef, to claim they are the best in the world!

These delicacies find a natural place in all major festivals and holidays: ‘crayfish parties’ are a much-anticipated annual event, and when the autumn’s lobster première comes around, crustacean enthusiasts can be found crowding onto fishing boats to join ‘lobster safaris’ around the intricate coastline, its islands and islets.

And they form part of everyday life, too, as well as many a childhood memory: what better way to enjoy a long summer evening than by fishing fresh prawns straight out of a paper bag while sitting on the end of a jetty?

Images: Cafe © Nicho Södling, imagebank.sweden; Langoustine © Henrik Trygg, imagebank.sweden; Strawberries © Ulf Huett-Nilsson, imagebank.sweden

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