...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Food journal number 21: Strawberries and new potatoes

Two swallows don't make a summer but strawberries (jordgubbar) and new potatoes (färsk potatis) do!

One of the things that I find very interesting in a place with four seasons is how the food -- yes, not only the clothing -- changes with the time of the year. When apples literally fall out of trees and mushrooms sprout in the forest in autumn, it's apple pie and mushroom sauce season. Then come the dark winter months that smell and smack of pastry, saffron, ginger, cream, and cinnamon sticks. The arrival of spring in the following months mark the arrival of Swedish-grown vegetables that were absent for the last half-year. Rhubarb, spring onion and asparagus recipes abound, as do grill-food. Then comes summer, when everybody flocks to the local strawberry stalls like fruit flies to the smell of sweet ripe fruit, and the words "färsk potatis" (new potatoes) happen to slip out of their mouths like a mantra.

Food is cultural too after all, and traditions like the approaching midsummer celebrations are highly linked with certain food (in this case: pickled herring, new potatoes, sour cream, and strawberries). There's also something special with summer's strawberries and new potatoes. It's as if one must have them when when they're available. Strawberries will never be this fresh after summer ends (when they will be imported from elsewhere), and in the case of new potatoes, they're never even available at any other time of the year.

We've got to have a share of the gastronomic goods too, of course :-) ...

...along with several million other people in the country, who are each trying to get to the strawberry stall and potato shelf faster than the other shoppers.

As you can imagine, this puts a lot of pressure on strawberry- and potato growers. Margareta's neighboring farmer has to have strawberries plucked out of his field almost all day long to meet the demand, it was said. The strawberries are constantly being boxed and shipped to the nearest groceries. Elsewhere, the demand make farmers resort to shady means just to keep up. Down in Kalmar as last week's The Local reported, a strawberry farmer was caught for smuggling 79 Polish strawberry-pickers, transporting them back and forth between two strawberry fields inside a truck trailer, where they were seen peeping out from a tiny window...

The new potatoes, as far as I know, don't have such news surrounding them, even if they too need to be harvested by hand. To be considered as "new potatoes" (or in Swedish "fresh potatoes", i.e. färsk potatis), the tubers have to be grabbed while still leaving the potato plant in place. These young potatoes will have a very thin skin (which rubs off as easily as body dirt, actually). Apparently, a regular potato also has to be cured after harvest to achieve the thick skin which new potatoes are without. The new potatoes also turn out with just the right balance of tenderness / firmness after 10 minutes of boiling, probably because of their relatively small size. I think that the color of the cooked new potato is also a bit paler than the regular's, and it's also supposed to be tastier in comparison, which I honestly find hard to tell because it's been a long time since I had potatoes in a form other than fries! :-P

P.S. Tomorrow (June 21), is summer solstice, the day of the longest daylight. How long exactly will the sunlight be around here in Norrköping? Oh, just about 18 hours or so! (The map to the left shows how long the sun is up in different latitudes in Sweden) Yesterday at Lindö, we were just watching the horizon turn red at sundown... at 11:15 in the evening! Then the sun was almost bright again during my morning trip to washroom... at little before 4 in the morning. I can't help thinking sometimes that the excess light messes up my sleeping-hormone balances, the tropical girl that I am!

P.P.S. Oh, oh and oh! I uploaded some kind of blog counter recently that could tell which sites my readers come from. Through this, I found out that my blog was actually one of the three recommended readings at backpackers.com, in an article about travelling Scandinavia (and Stockholm in particular) on a shoestring. It refers to my article from last month when I toured the city with Kristine. Funny... My first plan was to make that essay into a tips list on how to plan a trip to Stockholm, but I thought it would bore the readers. In the end, my only remaining tips there were that one should (1) plan ahead and (2) buy a Stockholm card; yet the essay still found its way to Backpackers. Now I'm a living Stockholm card commercial! And maybe I have to revise that entry to give justice to the "specific tips" that my entry supposedly has, according to the Backpackers write-up.


Blogger Christianne said...

Congrats on the link! Even if you think the entry was lacking in information they obviously found it helpful naman :) maybe you can do a follow-up entry for the tips you didn't include the first time around.

11:24 AM

Blogger vlado&toni said...

wow, that's a nice recognition :) i'm sure those future backpackers will be thankful for any tip you can give them.
germany got some crazy weather this spring so we got strawberries here last may (instead of june) and the season is almost over now. I wanted to buy some yesterday and saw the price doubled from last week. Oh well till next year, it's cherry season here now :) so opted for that one..lecker! by the way which program did you use to check on your visitors? been thinking of using one too but don't know which.thanks.

8:28 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Thanks Christianne and Toni! Anyway, I did edit the article to include the tips I wanted to write about before. Too bad I forgot the actual expenses so I could have made a run-down there.

After some surfing for blog counters, I settled for Statcounter.com. It's free, it's invisible, and it dosn't leave ads on your site!

5:19 PM

Blogger Cheryl said...

ang bilis mo mag-update joy, i can't keep up! hahahaha. but congratulations on the link, ang astig!! :)

5:35 AM


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