The flavours of Skåne: meet the people behind the produce

In Sweden's southernmost province, travellers can drink homemade smoothies made from foraged fallen fruits and lick ice cream flavoured with just-plucked saffron. We meet the makers behind some of the region’s best produce.Tuesday, 18 February 2020

By Nicolline van der Spek
Photographs By Frits Meyst

Skåne is often regarded as the testing ground of Sweden when it comes to food and drink. From the beer and the meat to the apple juice and the herbs, this culinary region offers an astounding variety of produce to be experienced in its idyllic surroundings. Behind each impressive ingredient is a creative local with a story to tell.

Jon & Giovanna Lindberg, restaurateurs

Jord & Bord Örnahusen, a neighbourhood restaurant, has been winning rave reviews for its inventive veggie dishes, using ingredients taken directly from its own garden. The food-loving duo behind the start-up are Jon and Giovanna Lindberg, a couple who met in London but upped sticks to Jon’s native Sweden and to green and serene Skåne — where the mild climate is perfect for a kitchen garden.

Jon tells me he started a vegetable patch in his back garden in 2016, intending to be self-sufficient. “I was thinking: how hard can it be? You put something in the ground, and it grows.” For now, the sun is shining, but I can imagine winter around me: a drop of dew on the end of your nose, low-hanging fog and two boots plunged deep into the mud. Luckily, Jon’s uncle is a farmer and was always available to answer questions.

Things have grown steadily since then: their land now nurtures red cabbage, artichoke, pumpkins, onions, blackberries and lupines, among many other crops. Grab a table on the sunny terrace for breakfasts of quinoa porridge with berries and nuts; or later in the day for bright bowls of vegetarian curry or kimichi burgers. There’s also afternoon tea (flaky pastries and cakes like works of art) and monthly supperclubs.

Elisabeth Knöppel, the apple juice maker

“Hey, what’s that I hear?” I’m walking with Elisabeth Knöppel through her apple orchard, Rörumsro Frukt & Must, full of twisting old trees clawing the skies. I hear the same as she does: the muffled sound of apples falling into a wooden box. As it turns out, one of the pickers is handling the apples a little too roughly. “Harvesting apples should be silent,” says Elisabeth, with a serious look. “If you can hear a sound, the apples could be damaged. You have to treat them like eggs.” She plucks a red apple, inspects it and takes a bite, before picking one for me, too.

Yet, her apples aren’t meant to be eaten. Elisabeth is an apple juice maker — and not an ordinary one: she’s an acclaimed artisan and has garnered a loyal following as Sweden’s best. Head to her shop and you can pick up exceptional seasonal fruits and homemade jams and marmalades. “My apples might not be perfect-looking — but that doesn’t bother me,” she says. “I’m going for the best taste and the best aromas. 

“When I started — 10 years ago — I was afraid I was doing everything wrong. Did I give the trees enough water? Was I drowning them? But the apples always do well. This is what they’ve taught me. Relax, take your time. That’s how I’m living my life now.”

David Lindegren, organic farmer and butcher 

The man at the helm of organic Lindegrens Farm is David Lindegren — a self-proclaimed city slicker who escaped to the countryside with his family 14 years ago and set up shop as a butcher, right here in Skåne. “I’ve loved animals since I was a child,” David says, as he leads me around his mammoth piece of land, fringed with a forest. What brought him to the countryside? “The peace and quiet,” he says with a smile. “Nothing gives me more peace than looking at a herd of cows chewing on grass.”

David’s Swedish mountain cows are lounging in the mud. He waves and yells: “Hello, ladies!” He holds a bucket filled with apples; they’re for Rose and Rut, two cows that weigh 300kg and live in the forest. He squats down and strokes their backs. “I may slaughter the cows myself,” he says, “but I always find it hard to talk about meat when I’m with my animals.”

And it’s this affectionate rearing that makes his farm shop and butchery stand out. Inside, you’ll find quality beef, lamb and sausages — all of which are labelled with the animal’s name, slaughter date and hanging time, so people know exactly what they’re buying.

Cherztin & Anders Persåkre, herb growers and ice cream makers

If you’re looking for the sweet stuff, pop into Österlenkryddor — a farm with a focus on spices and herbs, as well as its own charming shop and cafe. Flavourful ice creams are churned on site, showcasing the produce that grows and blooms in the field: tarragon, sage, dill, mint. It’s the sort of place you pop into for a quick coffee but stay for hours scouring its shelves for herbal oils, teas, pickles and vinegars, all processed in its neighbouring spice factory.

When I arrive, husband-and-wife team, Cherztin and Anders Persåkre, are tinkering away at the back of shop, making ice cream flavoured with homegrown saffron. Cherztin is too modest to say it herself, so her husband tells us: “She won a prize for her ice cream.”

Håkan Nillson, beer brewer

A crop of microbreweries has sprung up in Skåne, each offering tours and tastings. I meet Håkan Nillson, a fifth-generation chicken farmer turned craft beer brewer. He’s one of the founders of Remmarlöv Gårdsbryggeri — a flourishing enterprise based in a former pigsty that’s been creating wildly popular brews since 2014.

“My hobby got a little bit out of hand,” Håkan explains as he handles one of his bottles, bearing environmentally friendly retro labelling. When I ask if he’s striving for sustainability, he laughs; he likes to call it common sense. “Shall we have a taste?” It’s only 09.30, but I knock back a gulp with gusto. Skål!

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