Foraging connections

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.

Intention

To Discover

To Create

To Connect

Project

The project was divided into 5 parts:

  1. 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;

  2. 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; 

  3. To learn about these foraged goods using a sensorial approach, testing their culinary potential as unique ingredients;

  4. To develop recipes that include some of these foraged ingredients and prepare a dinner for a neighbour;

  5. 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.

Part 1

Lappkärrsberget

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.

IMG_0670.JPG
IMG_0634.JPG

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.

Part 2

Foraging

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.

IMG_3982.PNG
IMG_3983.PNG
IMG_0474.JPG

Part 3

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).

Ingredients

Method

Cauliflower Sformato with Ground Elder & Hedge Woundwort

IMG_0590.JPG
  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves removed, chopped to small florets

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

  • 5 Tbsp corn starch

  • 600 ml almond milk

  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup (40 g) nutritional yeast

  • 100 g hazelnut or almond flour

  • 50 g Ground Elder leaves, large fibrous stems removed

  • 50 g Hedge Woundwort leaves, large fibrous stems removed

  • 50 g hazelnuts, toasted

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

  2. In a large bowl, add the Ground Elder and Hedge Woundwort leaves, drizzle with with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.

  3. In another bowl, add the cauliflower, drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper, tossing to mix. Transfer coated florets to the lined oven tray and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, flipping them halfway, until lightly browned and caramelized all around. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

  4. Reduce oven temperature to 180ºC.

  5. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and fry the onion for about 4 minutes or until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

  6. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the rosemary and nutmeg to the pot and fry for another 30 seconds. Then mix in the corn starch - try to break down any lumps into smaller pieces.

  7. Then, gradually pour the milk while whisking quickly, making sure the corn starch dissolves and mixes evenly. Add the apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast.

  8. Continue whisking until the mixture starts to thicken into a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper and take off the heat.

  9. Mix in the baked cauliflower florets into the creamy sauce.

  10. Brush a large baking dish with olive oil. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

  11. Spread the hazelnut or almond flour evenly as a thin layer on top. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until set and browned. Let cool for 10 minutes.

  12. Meanwhile, spread out seasoned Ground Elder and Hedge Woundwort onto a lined baking sheet and then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until crisp.

  13. Scatter the crispy kale and toasted nuts over the sformato and serve warm.

Ingredients

Method

Almond, Alpine Currant & Choke Cherry Layered Pudding

IMG_0626.JPG

For the almond layer:

  • 1 cup almond milk

  • 1/4 cup erythritol

  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

  • 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds

For the Alpine Currant layer:

  • 1 cup juiced Alpine Currants

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/8 tsp agar powder

For the Choke Cherry layer:

  • 1 cup pressed Choke Cherries

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/8 tsp agar powder

For the coconut whipped cream (optional):

  • 1 400ml can coconut cream or full fat coconut milk

  • Wild berries, for garnish

  1. (Optional) For the coconut cream: Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid.

  2. Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind. 

  3. Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Refrigerate.

  4. For the almond layer: Add almond milk in a saucepan and stir in the erythritol.

  5. Whisk in the cornstarch, making sure there are no lumps.

  6. Stir in the salt and almond extract.

  7. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-heat and stir until thickened. Remove from the heat.

  8. Pour into a pudding mold or individual serving dishes. Sprinkle with almond slices and refrigerate until set.

  9. For the alpine currant layer: In a small sauce pan, add water and agar and stir until fully dissolved.

  10. Bring mixture to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool slightly.

  11. Blend agar mixture with Alpine Currant juice.

  12. Pour over cooled and set layer of almond pudding. Refrigerate until set.

  13. For the Choke Cherry layer: repeat the same process as for the alpine currant layer, remembering to work quickly because the Choke Cherry oxidizes fast and loses its vibrant purple color.  

  14. Optional: decorate pudding with whipped coconut cream and foraged berries.

  15. Serve chilled!

Ingredients

Method

Part 5

Workshop Proposal

I devised two proposals for workshops mirroring my own route:

(1) a 2 Day Workshop for Lappis residents to go through a similar process as mine;

(2) a 2 Week Workshop to take place at the retreat center, Orada, in Portugal, which enables participants to explore the socio-ecological systems in the surrounding landscape, and to experiment creatively using different culinary techniques with foraged products.

2 Day Workshop at Studio Pica in Lappis
 

DAY 1

  • Meeting and introduction

  • Brief historical and socio-ecological overview of Lappis and surroundings

  • Proposal: form connection to the place

  • Trip to the forest – pick an ingredient (berry, mushroom, leaf, flower, fruit, seed, etc…)

  • Explore sensorial qualities of the ingredient

  • Task: Research info about the ingredient + 3 recipe inspirations

 

DAY 2

  • Task: Bring enough of the ingredient to the studio + extra ingredients required

  • Experiment with ingredient, try different cooking methods

  • Develop a recipe

  • Collective tasting

  • Sharing & Reflection

2 Week Workshop at Orada in Portugal
 

WEEK 1

  • Historical and socio-ecological overview of Orada and surroundings

  • Trips to the forest with biologist/botanist/ecologist – learn about environment and different species, their interconnections, their properties, their uses 

  • Pick an ingredient (berry, mushroom, leaf, flower, fruit, seed, etc…)

  • Research about the specific ingredient

  • Explore sensorial qualities of the ingredient

  • Sharing & Reflection

 

WEEK 2

  • Experiment with ingredient, try different cooking methods with the help of a trained chef and professional equipment

  • Join in groups of 3 - combine ingredients

  • Develop a recipe together, and a full 4-course dinner as a whole group, integrating the recipes of the other members

  • Collective dinner tasting

  • Sharing & Reflection

Reflection

Learning about the history of Lappis and the forest helped me ground myself in the history of Stockholm and of Sweden. This knowledge also coloured my walks in the forest, by making me reflect on how ancient this place actually is, and by making me imagine how many stories have played out in its landscape; some known and some untold. It made me wonder about how its identity has shifted and how it has remained the same - part wild, part domesticated. It was a pleasure to take the time to go for long walks and, like a curious child, crouch down and really look at plants, smell them, feel their textures, and try their taste. It was a luxury to experience the abundance that is, in fact, so close at hand.

The many hours it took for me to collect the ingredients made me appreciate the hard labour of farmers and berry pickers and of my own privilege to not have to think about the labour behind the packaged goods in the supermarket. It also made me think of ancient foragers who depended on these foods for their survival, and how far this reality is to ours today in this part of the world. It is also striking to realize how disconnected we have become from the notion that we are actually surrounded by food in its many natural forms. No only has our view of what counts as "food" reduced, but we we have lost common knowledge about edible plants and other products that surround us. We handed the responsibility of knowing to a few who control our food production, purely for the sake of convenience. Ultimately, the privilege to not think comes at the cost of not knowing. 

Experimenting with the ingredients was an exciting way to approach cooking more creatively. Instead of starting from a pre-set recipe, I was more receptive to what the foodstuff was telling me and which direction it wanted to take. I wish that I had taken this further in order to fully investigate the properties of the food and what it can/cannot do in culinary terms. Could a Ground Elder couli be an unexpected delight? 

In the end, this investigation inspired me to take others along and try it with me, and I look forward to trying the workshops. 

1. Ground Elder (Aegopodium Podagraria)
2. Hedge Woundwort (Stachys Sylvatica)
3. Stone Bramble (Rubus Saxatilis)
4. Common Chokecherry (Prunus Virginiana)

I was particularly impressed with the Chokecherry flavour; when juice-pressed it became a soft puré and it reminded me of Açaí, and I wondered if I had stumbled upon the European version of the açaí bowl. I found out that its origin is actually from North America, and apart from jams and syrups, there were few recipes with this ingredient available online! An exciting opportunity!

5. Common Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)
6. Peach-leaved Bellflower (Campanula Persicifolia)
7. Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium Verum)