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I, like very many other Swedes, love to pick berries. First, summer comes with its season of strawberries and wild strawberries followed by the beginning of fall with its raspberries and blueberries. It’s a wild struggle to pick as many berries of one kind before the weather changes cause the remaining berries to wilt.
During this period of the year (August), the sun is a perfect warmth, while the middle of the day can still get quite hot and the evenings get chilly so you are constantly reminded that fall is soon upon you.
Many people make jam, juice-concentrate, pies, jellies and more recently chutneys etc. with the berries they have picked, or just freeze them for use during the rest of the year.
Once the time for blueberries and raspberries is past there is still one treasure left. Lingon berries. This berry can be considered the red gold of the forest. It is actually a very hard berry, making it very resistant to cold and frost. So even after school starts people can still pick them, into September.
I’m not sure if all schools in Sweden do this, but my school was located out in the country-side, which meant that if we took a day-trip we could easily reach the a forest. Our school had a sort of mentoring system in which the older students in 6th grade would take care of students in 3rd grade pair-wise. Two older students for every two younger students. The point being that the younger students would feel that they trusted some of the older kids at school and might also have the courage to tell their “mentor” if something was wrong.
So during the first couple of months the sixth and third graders do a couple of activities together to get to know each other. One of these activities is going to a woods were you can find lingonberries. During a half a day everybody brings a knapsack and walks together with their mentors to the berry picking spot. Then the group goes round picking berries for a couple of hours with a nice lunch break in between. Once the berries have been picked, they get taken back to school and eventually home to be cleaned as a kind of homework. The cleaned berries are then given to the school kitchen staff to make lingon berry jam, used in school lunches for a part of the coming school year.
It is a great bonding activity and it also gives the students a little insight into what they eat as a part of so many of their meals. The students have to take responsibility for the berries they have picked, even though a lot of parents end up cleaning their children’s berries for them. It might not be a huge economic gain for the school but it is still a good idea I think. If the weather is nice it is a really fun thing to do.
Lingonberry jam is not exactly sweet so it’s eaten a lot with meat, and almost in all cases with potatoes. It is a little like the cranberry. Many people eat it on the side with gravy (brown sauce) and whatever “biff” (like a meat patty) people usually eat. This sort of food is especially eaten a lot in Norrland (North of Sweden) where they have plenty of lingon berries to pick.