Disclaimer: In support of my experience with Pure Food Camp, all expenses were kindly covered by Visit Skåne. I was not under any obligation to write this post. As always, all words and opinions are of course my own.
I’m still looking back on my last visit to Sweden with Pure Food Camp as one of the best I’ve ever been on. Figured it was high time I shared a little bit more about my experience.
Pure Food Camp is headed up by two wonderful women, Lotta Ranert and Titti Qvarnström. A passion project started for no other reason than to connect people from all over the world and to reconnect us to where our food comes from. And I have to say, they are doing just that. Food is such a powerful connector, isn’t it?
I wasn’t really sure what to expect before arriving but I always head into these things with an open mind. I got off the train somewhere north of Malmö and within 20 minutes, I was deep in the woods with the rest of the group. Welcomed into our homes for the next few days, at Nyrups Naturhotel, sleeping in a cosy yurt lit by oil lamps and heated by log burners. A far cry from the city apartment I’m used to but an experience I welcomed with open arms!
There’s no electricity here. It turns out to be a blessing in disguise. We have a little introduction to survival in the forest from expert forager Pontus, he teaches us to chop wood and start a fire. Going right back to basics!
Learning to cook outdoors was a real highlight of the trip. There’s something about preparing food over an open fire that makes you enjoy the food so much more. Everything tastes better too. We didn’t have recipes but between us all, still made a 5-course dinner happen.
Foraging in the woods
As you might already know, I’m keen on learning more on the subject of foraging. The endless supply of wild food available still blows my mind. On day 2 of the camp, we were lucky to spend the day foraging with Pontus in the surrounding woodland of the camp. Perfect time of year for mushrooms, although I’ve always been intimidated/slightly terrified of picking them myself. This was my chance. I wanted to absorb as much knowledge as possible from Pontus and I cannot believe the number of mushrooms found!
I’ve finally got over my fear of wild mushrooms. There’s a small number I’d confidently pick myself after this trip, porcini being the main variety. Now I hope it goes without saying but don’t go out picking mushrooms yourself without an expert guide! There are too many edible ones looking almost identical to poisonous, not a risk worth taking. I hope I can apply this new found knowledge to mushroom foraging in the UK, we’ll see how lucky I get with that. Maybe next year.
Although mushrooms were the star of the show, we found so many other edible wild plants on our walk. ‘Chickweed’ was a favourite and one I’ll be looking out for back home. It smells and tastes like peas and in fact, has the same proteins as green peas. I can imagine this would be great in salads or sandwiches.
Pontus had us stop and appreciate the beauty and properties of these plants, which really got me thinking about the growing trend with wild food in the UK. Restaurants here are picking for the economical and that could easily lead us down a path of extermination. Yes, it’s amazing all of this food is available to us to help ourselves but it’s important to gather with your heart in the right place. I’m grateful for a quote that was shared with the group, perhaps it will resonate with you too.
“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed
.” ― Mahatma Gandhi.
Back at the camp, we put our foraged bits and pieces to good use for a wonderful evening meal. All mucking in to prepare the dishes but it was an honour to be led by chef Titti Qvarnström (the first female chef in Sweden to be awarded a Michelin star). Titti is so humble and generous with her knowledge, I was very lucky to experience this trip with her on board.
The mushrooms were simply fried in lots of butter and I had my first encounter with pickled herring. Not sure I’ll be in a rush to eat that again but I’m glad I tried it!
Moving onto the second part of Pure Food Camp, out of the forest and into the luxury at Ellinge Castle. I was a little sad to leave the outdoors behind but then the rain came and my first hot shower in 3 days was a welcome treat.
Here we enjoyed a typical crayfish party. A celebration of the season and usually held outdoors because it’s such a messy affair. Crayfish aplenty, with side dishes of cheese, cold cuts of meat, salad and quiche. Then the celebrations go a little something like this…eat, sing Swedish songs, a shot of Snaps and repeat. I’m laughing thinking about it now, such good fun!
Just a short walk from the castle to Bränneriets Gård, an organic farm shop where the grown produce is available to the public for self-picking.
I could’ve spent all day here. We gathered ingredients for dinner and made our own bottled apple juice. It survived the journey home and lasted all of one day, so delicious. There was jam making too. Seabuckthorn and whitecurrant, I’ve been enjoying this on my porridge all week and doing my best to use sparingly! Seabuckthown is actually something you can forage for, it grows near the coast and is jam packed full of vitamin C.
pictured below, seabuckthorn:
I think this is the best food trip I’ve ever been on. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Disconnecting from modern comforts reminded me that food is so much more than just what we eat, it connects us. All of us.
Thank you Lotta, Titti and everyone else involved in making this trip what it was. There are trips and then there are experiences, Pure Food Camp was definitely the latter.