Learn about foraging Scandi-style with this extract from Brontë Aurell's new book Nørth: How to Live Scandinavian.
By Brontë Aurell
A few years ago, Nordic food suddenly became very popular. Fancy restaurants started putting things like nettles, moss and ants on the menu, together with obscure plants that most Nordic folk had never even heard of. Along with this came a desire to get back to real foraging. We grabbed this idea by the horns and rode the wave. Of course, we all go foraging: we are the Vikings, the foragers. We live off the land. We are at one with the land.
To be fair, we have always liked going into nature to look for stuff we can eat. Mostly, though, until the Nordic Food Revolution, this extended to mushrooms, that wild blackberry bush by the side of the road and wild strawberries while holidaying in our cottage by the lake. And Mr Jensen's apple tree, surely that's a form of foraging, too? Aside from this, most Nordic folk didn't actually forage that much – or at least they didn't until the rest of the world started to. City-based Danes, especially the fashionable ones, can now be found wandering around suburban patches of land looking for stuff to eat.
In recent decades living off the land had become mostly about the comfort of knowing 7-Eleven had the stuff you needed late at night. Scandinavians are as much a bunch of convenience creatures as the next, and our knowledge of gathering food is as basic as most people's. We moved to the cities and we forgot how to forage; we didn't eat nettle soup and most people had never made a jar of jam in their entire lives. By and large, even today, if you send most Nordic folk into the forest on a survival course without their smartphone for fact-checking, they'd eat the wrong mushrooms and die a slow death.
That's not to say that it isn't in our genes. This pride in the Scandinavian lands has grown from a fashionable food fad and we're reconnecting, finding that we're not too bad at it, either. From a change in eating trends, our heritage and love of how things used to be done has regrown. It has been a beautiful journey, reconnecting with our food cultures and shunning the fast-food pressures that had started taking their toll on the popularity of traditional Scandinavian food and dishes – not to mention waistlines.
Foraging in Scandinavia is no different to foraging anywhere else. First, no one is going to tell you where the good patches are, because that's rule number one of foraging: never tell anyone anything. Research is essential, as is making really good friends with local foragers.
New book Nørth: How to Live Scandinavian by Brontë Aurell featuring photography by Anna Jacobsen (£20, Aurum Press) is out now.