A natural dining experience

Visit Sweden's campaign The Edible Country turns Sweden into one big restaurant. Above is one of their tables in Asa Småland, Sweden. Photo: August Dellert.

During covid19 there’s no better thing than to turn to nature if you want to escape quarantine solitude. In Sweden, for the second year in a row, Visit Sweden together with Primus, Fjällräven and local tourism organizations are offering hungry tourists the opportunity to dine in the free. Edible Country efficiently turns the entire country into one great restaurant, where local produce is presented in the most natural surroundings possible. We talked to Frida Wallén, project manager at Visit Sweden, about what guests can expect from the experience.

How did this initiative come about?

– We know that many of the foreign tourists coming to Sweden are amazed by our close to nature lifestyle and are seeking simple, yet refined dining experiences. And as nature is one of our greatest assets, we thought about ways of showing off our great pantry with extraordinary produce in a natural setting. There is just an immense power in that combination if you get it right. Our way of doing so was to develop the Edible Country concept, a do-it-yourself (DIY) dining experience curated by nature. We had some of Sweden’s most renowned chefs helping us to compose menus from ingredients that you can forage in our forests, fields and lakes. And, as Sweden has the unique legal right to public access and open countryside (Allemansrätten), this is actually fully doable. The chefs that we collaborate with are hand-picked. The prerequisites were that they should be Michelin-starred chefs who already had Swedish nature as an important element in their cooking philosophies. Along with the menu suggestions comes instructions on how to properly cook the dishes. We want to offer the best meal experience possible with gourmet food at an unexpected location. The recipes have been developed individually for each table to fit the specific location.

How does it work?

– Each table is hosted by a local entrepreneur. They are responsible for any permits needed and if the guests have to acquire a fishing card or any landowner permission to forage. At many of the tables a basket of ingredients is offered to be used if everything can’t be found or picked at the spot. The menus are always inspired by the place where the tables are located and one  purpose of the concept is to get people to really experience the amazing nature in Sweden and learn about the place they visit. All tables offer a Do-it-yourself experience that cost 200 SEK per person, however most guests choose to book add-ons unique for each table. The possible add-ons include a basket of ingredients, a local guide that explains what and where to pick edibles in nature or a local chef to enhance the meal preparation experience. Last year, we had 13 tables open, but this year we decided to expand and open 23 tables. They are open for bookings from May to October and are located across the country – from North to South, East to West.

A real do-it-yourself (DIY) dining experience curated by nature. Dinner guests preparing a meal. Photo: August Dellert.

Why are you doing this?

– We want to show all the values Sweden has to offer. That’s why The Edible Country was initially launched as an international initiative and marketed to tourists visiting from abroad. But given the current pandemic and all the travel restrictions, we’ve also promoted this at home through our regional partners They are marketing their tables locally and the domestic interest has really spiked this year. I guess it’s as exotic to some swedes to visit some of these places as it is for someone travelling from outside the country.

Has the concept been copied abroad?

– Not that we know of yet. But you have to remember that Sweden’s legal right of public access is quite unique and I’m not sure that this could be done to the same extent anywhere else in the world. And that’s the key to the whole concept. The Swedish lifestyle is all about having the ability to roam free in nature. The nature is open to be enjoyed, as long as you respect it and keep it preserved for the ones that come after.