Sweden’s new tourism initiative encourages visitors to eat and live like locals.
In Sweden, eating clean and local is not a new trend. In fact, it is not a trend at all; it’s a way of life. With one in ten people being vegetarian or vegan, Swedes pay close attention to where their ingredients come from prioritizing locally grown food. The Nordic region has been spearheading healthy food alternatives since Denmark’s René Redzepi attracted foodies to the Nordic countryside in 2005 with Noma. More than ten years later, Solutions Menu: A Nordic guide to sustainable food policy was published. In many respects, Nordic chefs everywhere began echoing the manifesto’s goals; achieving increased levels of nutrition, promoting food sustainability and identity, all while championing the economy and overall health of the locality through a diet composed of locally grown ingredients. Now, Sweden wants to bring tourists in on the experience (and perhaps uncover their secret to always ending up at the top of those happiness lists.)
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Move Over Swedish Meatballs
Nettles, wood sorrel, and dandelion buds are just a few of the edible “weeds” growing in the dense Swedish countryside. While some of us labor and spend ridiculous amounts of money to rid their yards of these wild plants, the Swedes have learned to forage and cook these nutritionally packed greens. In a moment when our culture is finally recognizing the benefits of organic sustainability, eco-conscious travelers and foodies alike are flocking to Sweden, eating local ingredients and dining at elevated plant-based restaurants. Some consider the shift in dining a benefit to their health. For others, New Nordic cuisine means a world of new flavors in which they can also reduce their carbon footprint. Trek into Swedish culture and find stunning natural landscapes, a thriving restaurant scene, and a renewed focus on what makes this country so unique.
Leave Your Car Behind
Whether you are exploring Swedish cities for celebrated local flavors or adventuring into the countryside to forage for them yourself, long gone are your bumper-to-bumper car rides. Rarely will you have to worry about crowds, since 96% of Sweden is uninhabited space. If you are visiting Sweden to find a remote dining experience, outfitters like Robusta Äventyr can provide the typical Swedish means of transportation–a bicycle. There is no need to rent a car upon your arrival. With easily accessible train lines and bike-friendly roads, travelers to Sweden can grab a train, strap on a helmet, and ride to their foodie destination.
INSIDER TIPSweden’s Right of Public Access allows locals and visitors to “roam freely in the countryside,” so you can feel free to bike, forage, hike, camp, swim, fish, and ski without offending the local community.
DIY Dinner Parties
A culmination of the New Nordic ethos is the highly collaborative effort to promote Sweden’s sustainability, Edible Country. Edible Country is the brainchild of four Swedish Michelin-starred chefs, Titti Qvarnström, Niklas Ekstedt, Jacob Holmström, and Anton Bjuhr in conjunction with Sweden’s tourism board – Visit Sweden. Together they created a nine-course foraged dinner menu and chose seven locations across the Swedish countryside to host a very Instagram friendly dinner party. Arrive with an empty stomach and find a seasonally inspired menu, handcrafted farm tables, prep stations, and experts to guide you while you forage the surrounding forest for your meal. If you are feeling extra adventurous, opt to glamp at one of the strategically placed locations hosting your outdoor dinner. Instant online reservations through Bookatable are available from May through September in Skåne, West Sweden, Lapland, Jämtland, Småland, Värmland, and Stockholm.
Ready, Set, Forage!
Most Swedes plan their entire day to get the most out of nature, so many locals are well-versed in foraging for their meals. After a quick and rewarding ride through the picturesque countryside, (think rolling green hills, petrichor and towering Norway Spruce), arrive at the edge of the forest. Edible Country begins with a lesson in foraging from a trained chef explaining how to handle those pesky little stinging nettles you found. Before you know it, you are hiking past the treeline and into a lush and verdant landscape. Taste what you pick along the way, after conferring with your guide of course. Perhaps the most ineffable experience you’ll have is biting into your first yellow archangel or tasting the succulent chickweed stems. Throughout the day, sample dozens of delicious plants from the forest before you create your dinner menu with your findings.
Dine Alfresco in the Woods
Long farm tables adorned with faux animal hides, wildflowers, candles, organic “Apple must” and locally brewed IPA’s from Skåne. These elements and much more help contribute to creating hygee–a very Nordic concept evoking an immediate sense of home and comfort. Even the wildlife joins in, as Blackbirds, Eurasian eagle-owls, and crickets provide a soundtrack for the day. The menu consists of a salad of leafy greens and herbs, followed by nettle and dandelion soup, perch (provided, but you can catch them locally!) with ramson and parsnip. A dessert of chervil pie satisfies your sweet tooth as the golden hour turns to blue. This gastronomic feat includes everything you need for the most health-conscious, sustainable meal you have ever chowed down.
INSIDER TIPDon’t expect to find high alcohol content in the local brews of Sweden. The only alcoholic drinks for sale beyond Sweden’s Systembolaget are less than 3.5% by volume.
Look No Further
Inspired by the Edible Country experience? If you are looking to continue your foraged and plant-based dining trip, look no further than the city of Malmö. The southernmost Swedish city is sprawling with healthy menus, farmers markets, co-ops, and CSA programs. Start, or end your day with breakfast at Jord. The all-day breakfast menu offers seasonally inspired cuisine as well as smoothie bowls and chia puddings. Within walking distance of Jord, and continuing the locally sourced theme is Plant Magic. The name says it all, the creative flavor combinations draw in hungry locals and quickly sell out of perfectly spiced veggie dishes. Next, head to Mineral. The flavor-packed menu continually changes with the season. Their dining staff will help you pair any of their vegan-friendly dishes to their selection of organic orange wine, beer, and cider. This wine bar also hosts wine tastings and music events.
INSIDER TIPOrange wine is to white wine what rosé is to red wine. The orange tint appears by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a vibrant marigold-hued beverage.
A Food-Lovers Paradise
Still hesitant about the plant-based trend? Sweden’s long history of vegan-friendly restaurants has been challenging the status quo, long before you tried your first Impossible Burger. As a testament to Sweden’s New Nordic guidelines, healthy alternatives are everywhere. Opened in 2016, Malmö’s food market, Saluhall is full of innovative artisans producing creative, homemade healthy fare in a former freight depot. Vegan feta that could rival any sheep’s milk version, locally brewed kombucha and handmade, non-dairy chocolates will make your afternoon fika fix even more enjoyable. Gluten-free, veggie-friendly menu items are plentiful with Hedvigsdal Pizza creating pies made with cashew nut cheese and plant-based meat alternatives.
Eating Healthy Should Not Be Complicated
Even if you are not interested in getting your hands dirty, Sweden still offers plenty of opportunities to find more elevated plant-based fare, seek out Jörgen Lloyd’s Lyran. The New Nordic-inspired restaurant in the district of Möllevången invites guests to discover ingredients that are at the peak of ripeness. Lloyd’s menu is comprised of local and foraged elements found in nearby rivers, lakes, and forests around southern Sweden. Feast on ingredients like Aranca Tomatoes from Olunda or White Asparagus from Bondens Skafferi, cooked in front of you in an open-air kitchen no more significant than your mother’s. Pick up some tips to bring home as Lloyd teaches you how to correctly prep his findings. The nutrient-packed locally sourced dishes will have you thanking yourself from avoiding the all too common food coma. Enjoy the fresh Swedish air as your bike or walk back to your hotel. In Sweden, feeling refreshed and more energetic after a meal is how they hook you.
The Noma Effect
End your trip to Sweden by visiting the restaurant of one of Edible Country’s masterminds. Chef Titti Qvarnström draws inspiration from past and present as she navigates the role food plays in her life. As a kid, roaming the woods with her family, she learned which plants were edible. She quotes, “My earliest food memory is from the Scanian (Skåne) nature where I spent lots of time with my family, learning which plants you could eat and which to stay clear of. Through my cooking, I can share a bit of the landscape that I love with people from all over the world. It’s really amazing.” Qvarnström’s restaurant, Bloom In the Park, mimics her learnings as well as Sweden’s progressive food scene. She embraces green, sustainable ingredients while relying on what’s regionally in season. This rustic lakeside cabin plays host to a menu-less farm-to-table restaurant that would leave anyone satisfied and refreshed after a week of experiencing Sweden like a local.