An approach to the online Summer course at Konstfack, Back to the Land, 2021
My initial goal was to learn more about my immediate environment. To go out and explore my surroundings - the natural landscape that surrounds my home.
Using the knowledge that I gathered from my discoveries, I wanted to apply it and create something that could communicate part of that knowledge to others.
In following this route, my intention was to find ways to connect to the place I am living, and by sharing with others, invite them to connect with it in similar or unexpected ways.
The project was divided into 5 parts:
To collect information about the history of the place I am now living in: Lappkärrsberget, and the surrounding forest belonging to Stockholm's Kungliga Djurgården;
To go for long walks and immerse myself in the landscape, and to learn about the different species living there. In particular, to forage wild plants, herbs, berries, and fruits that are novel and have culinary potential;
To learn about these foraged goods using a sensorial approach, testing their culinary potential as unique ingredients;
To develop recipes that include some of these foraged ingredients and prepare a dinner for a neighbour;
To devise a workshop proposal that promotes a similar journey for exploration and culinary experimentation and facilitates ways for participants to connect to their environment.
Lappkärrsberget or "Lappis" is Stockholm's largest residential area for students located in Frescati, within the National City Park. It has more than 2,000 student housing units, owned by SSSB, and was built during the years 1968–1970. It is a short 5 minute walk to Stockholm University campus, and a 15 minute bus ride to KTH.
Lappis is home mostly to international students, who usually stay between half a year to 4 years, and rarely longer. The high turnover rate of residents makes it difficult to develop a stable community. However, there are some steady traditions, such as the Lappis Scream, which happens every Tuesday at 10 o'clock sharp (see video below).
I moved here a year ago, and find Lappis a very welcoming place, where it is easy to meet people, and boasts a beautiful location. It is embedded in the forest, and aside from the beautiful scenery with its many trekking routes and lakes, it is not uncommon to see roaming deer, hares, and squirrels.
Stora & Lilla Lappkärrsberget, Stora & Lilla Skuggan
Stora Skuggan (The Big Shadow) and Lilla Skuggan (The Little Shadow) are part of Norra Djurgården, which, in turn, is part of Kungliga Djurgården (The Royal Game Park). This area was most likely a wild forested area for many centuries until the formation of permanent settlements in Stockholm in 1252. In the 17th Century, king Karl XI fenced the whole area and turned it into an extensive hunting park with reindeer, wolves, and bears. During the 18th century, Djurgården transformed into more of a popular recreational area rather than a hunting park, and remains so to this day.
The names of Stora and Lilla Lappkärrsberget are connected with the reindeer herder dwellings that the crown held for the Sami as a part of the royal hunting park. Etymologically, however, it is unclear if the name Lappkärr is connected with the Sami history or if it is a description of the semi-open marshes below the mountain, today's Lappkärret. The name Lappkärret is mentioned for the first time in one map of the area from 1649. When construction began in the 1960s to build the student residence of Lappis, a groundwater well was punctured, and the marsh became a lake.
During the late 18th Century, Stora Skuggan became an area for agricultural and physical experiments. Abraham Edelcrantz, the Swedish inventor, lived in Stora Skuggan and conducted experimental cultivations in its lands. He helped establish the Royal Swedish Agricultural and Forestry Academy and was the father of Experimentalfältet, the “Experimental Field,” established in Frescati as a center for agricultural research. It was not until the 1960s, when the new campus of Stockholm University was installed on the fields and the Academy of Agriculture and Forestry was transferred to Uppsala.
I took inspiration from the Swedish cookbook Det vilda köket (2016), which showcases several herbs and berries that can be be foraged in different parts of Sweden according to season. I set out to find similar plants, and used the mobile app Picture This to help me identify different species.
In my walks in late June, I stopped to photograph several plants along my way, and used the plant identifier app to find out their name, I then Google-searched them to learn which ones were edible and which ones were not. I picked the ones that were safe to eat.
I picked between 15-20 different species in small quantities in order to try and test them in the kitchen at home. After testing their sensorial properties (see below), I went back to the forest to pick larger quantities of the ones I decided to include in the dinner I would prepare.
Experimenting / Processing
Taking inspiration from our classes during the Back to the Land course where we explored the haptic attributes of different foods (e.g. banana slices) processed in different ways (e.g. raw, dehydrated), I took a similar approach to testing the plants I foraged.
Due to time restrictions, I selected a sample of 8 plants to test, and submitted them to 4 simple processing techniques: (1) washing & cutting; (2) frying in rapeseed/MCT oil; (3) boiling in water; and (4) juicing with a slow juicer.
After processing each ingredient, I noted down their appearance, odour, texture (in hands and mouth), flavour, sound, weight, temperature, and moisture (in hands and mouth). Some of them were surprisingly tasty (e.g. fried Ground Elder), and immediately triggered pairings with other known foods (e.g. toasted hazelnuts).