Jane Arrowsmith turns people’s forgotten fruit into gold – or at least delicious food. Photo: Johannes Frandsen.
July isn’t only the most classical holiday month in Sweden, it is also the time of the year when people’s gardens start to explode with fruits and vegetables.
It might sound odd, but for many this seems to be an annual surprise.
When holidays are planned, very few take into account that their own homes will turn into food-producing factories. Others just don’t have the time or energy to take care of harvests from plants and trees that were probably already there when they moved in.
So while Swedish gardens are bursting with tons of apples, pears, plums, currants and gooseberries – a lot of it unfortunately just rots away.
Liquid apple for darker days. Photo: Johannes Frandsen.
When Jane Arrowsmith, who lives in the western part of Stockholm, noticed this, she felt something had to be done.
She started by letting her friends on Facebook know that she could harvest their fruit and give back 20–25 percent of it in the form of jam, juice and other refined products. The rest of it, Jane and her family eat themselves or sell at local markets.
Soon enough people started to contact Jane themselves. It is hard to know how much fruit Jane takes care of, but she knows that last year more than 300 kilo of apples went to juice-making, and that was just a small part of the harvest.
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Hästa gård would be a nice farm no matter where it would have been situated. But what makes it so special that it’s a very urban farm. It’s even been called one of the worlds largest city farms, situated on a field between the Stockholm suburbs of Husby and Akalla. On 185 hectares you can find cows, pigs, hens and sheep as well as potatoes, tomatoes, butter beans and wheat.
Recently I went there for a coffee in their nice little garden café. It’s a very special feeling to get off the metro in Tensta, walk through the centre, under the highway and after a few minutes in a beautiful landscape you are on a farm!
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Apples, apples, everywhere... Photo: Sara Jeswani.
A walk through one of Sweden’s residential areas at this time of the year can be a tough experience for anyone who doesn’t like seeing food go to waste. Fruit trees are common and often very productive, but not everyone has the time and interest to make use of all the fruit. Often the lawns are dotted with apples, pears, plums and other fruits that just go to waste.
Not that humans are the only ones who can benifit from the fruit (I know, it’s a bit off topic, but I have to grab the chance to link to an article about the now world-famous moose that got a bit tipsy by eating fermented apples in a garden in Särö [map] – and ended up stuck in the apple tree! Watch the photos)
Anyway: there are still a lot of fruit rotting in gardens allover Sweden. Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s garden to pick all the apples I could carry. But now there’s also a good solution for all those who don’t know a fruit tree owner. Victoria Qvarnström got fed up with seing apples rotting in the gardens and started the Facebook group Fruktförmedlingen (The Fruit Agency ), where people who have more fruit than they can eat write a line and those who are in need can get in touch.
In a few weeks time Fruktförmedlingen has become a huge success, with more than 3000 members and plenty of fruit being picked and eaten, allover Sweden. In her own blog (in Swedish) Victoria explains that she’s actually not very interested in making jam or lemonade herself. For her it’s rather about that “Sharing is caring”, she says.
PS. For anyone wondering how things went with the poor moose: The neighbours, who found her dangling in the tree, managed to saw off a few branches and get her down. She stayed for another day in the garden, walking around and staring at the apples, probably full, and with a bit of a hangover, according to the man who found her.
Staffan Börjesson weeding at Tillsammansodlingen. In the background Christian Gustavsson. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
If you’re looking for the seeds of a more local food future, Tillsammansodlingen just south of Gothenburg [map] is a good place to start.
“Tillsammansodlingen” (meaning something like “the together plantation”) came out of the Transition group in Gothenburg. When they started in 2009 many of the group members saw food-growing as a natural starting point in the work to make their local community less dependant on fossil fuels.
When they heard of an elderly organic farmer wanting someone to take over the land he had rented, the idea started taking shape and about one year ago the first seeds made their way into the soil.
Now Tillsammansodlingen consists of a core group of 5 to 6 persons, and around 20 more who come in and work occasionally. As a member in the association you pay 500 Swedish kronor (about 52 Euro) per year and then you get to pick the vegetables you need for household requirements every time you participate in the cultivation work.
The surplus harvest is sold at a market stand by the plantation and by an organic food shop in Gothenburg.
- Personally it’s both about the environment and about my love for food. It’s simply fantastic to be able to harvest your own spinage and eat as much salad as you want, says Christian Gustavsson.
He sees this as a way of putting less of his time on paid work.
- I think it gives new ways of thinking about economics and food, and we need that.
Looking out at the European highway just a bit further away, he says:
- Right now a lot of the vegetables feeding Gothenburg comes in on this road, with trucks from the South of Europe. And this strip of land along the highway used to be what provided a big part of the city with food in earlier years. Now there are practically no plantations left, but the soil is really fertile so there’s a good potential.
Photo: Sara Jeswani