Scandinavia is known for production of berries. Among Scandinavian countries, Sweden leads the park as its forests are characterised by lush growth of diverse types of wild berries. Some of the types that grow in plenty in the wild include Lingonberries, In, Blåbär (literally blueberries: they, however, differ significantly from American blueberries), Bog Bilberries, Blingon, Swedish Blackberry or Björnbär, Swedish Strawberry or Smultron (Duke, 2012). Wild berries in Sweden have always been part of the country’s rich culture and cuisine, which has been described as simple, nourishing and sustaining mostly due to their abundance in the country(Swedish Culture: food and Drink, 2013). From medieval times, berries have been eaten without being processed or made into cider, which has been present in Swedish dining tables for centuries. In olden days, the berries were vital source of minerals and vitamins, and were stored to last the long winter that the country experiences. The berries were also used in baking, which gives Swedish bread its characteristic sweetness.
With increased knowledge in nutrition and improved technology in food processing, value addition has been enhanced and a large variety of products are currently obtained from the berries. The Swedes have a great liking for sweet foods and since berries are plentiful and sweet, they are commonly used in the manufacture of juices and jams, most commonly Lingonberry jam which is a common component of Swedish cuisine and is taken together with a wide range of Swedish foods. Vital vitamins B and C and antioxidants are today extracted from these berries. With improved marketing strategies, transport and communication, Swedish wild berry products are now found world over.
Swedish berries have a significant economic value as they are exported or used as a raw material and provide seasonal employment for pickers. The country produces at least 20,000,000 kilograms of berries annually valued at 220,000,000 million Kroner ($ 30,000,000). Though exact figures of the net economic value of berries are yet to be reached, they are one of the most important natural resources that the country boasts of (Swedish Board of Agriculture 2010).
Berries originated from various parts varied parts of the world. Strawberries, for instance originated from Brittany in France while Lingonberries were first found in arctic tundra. There are records of many types of wild berries that are today found in Sweden growing in the mountainous regions of Northern Russia over a thousand years ago. However, the berries can found perfect home in the area of Northern Europe that covers the Nordic and Baltic States. They are to be found in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Elden, Gavin and Klueh). It is in Sweden and Norway, however, that they are found in plentiful in the wild and also in farms. Due to human encroachment, changes in weather patterns and pollution, the number of berries in some of the areas in which they first grew has reduced drastically to the point of total elimination. However, berries remain in large production in Sweden and Norway since the climate and soils in these areas are still conducive for their growth.
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The abundance of this resource has had far reaching effects globally. Picking of the berries during summer draws workers from many different countries in Europe and Asia. Thailand is one country which exports seasonal labour to Sweden during the picking season. At least 5000 workers migrate to Sweden seasonally to pick wild berries. The Swedish authorities have in fact directed their diplomatic missions abroad to make the issuance of temporary work permits and visas quite easy during the picking season in selected countries among them Thailand. During a good year, it is possible for a picker to earn between 20,000 and 40,000 Swedish crowns which is quite a huge sum in Thailand, above the threshold of many well-paid professionals. The seasonal migration is instrumental in cultural exchange between the host country’s culture and their indigenous culture. The seasonal migration has for instance led to many Thais settling in Sweden and subsequently the establishment of Thai restaurants both in major Swedish towns and in the countryside and introduction of Thai festivities such as the King’s birthday which is a major holiday in Thailand into Sweden. In addition, the money remitted back home by migrant pickers, goes a long way in improving the lives of relatives and friends back home. Other countries that export their labour force during this picking season include the South-eastern European countries such as Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, and Bulgaria. It brought with them rich Turkic, Hellenic, Latin, and Slavic culture into Sweden.
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Unlike many agricultural based raw materials, berries, whether being processed to jams or juices, require very little processing. At the same time picking is by hand. As such, the value addition processes do not have adverse effects on the environment. It is important to note that berries are picked without causing harm to the plant, hence, it possible to forage for berries from the wild for many years. The resource is therefore sustainable for long periods of time (Darrow 1966).
Many farmers and traders in many parts of Europe including in Sweden itself and the United States have embarked on growing berries that were previously to found in the wild only. They have further embarked on breeding processes that enable high productivity. There is concurrence from consumers, however, that berries produced in farms can not measure up in quality with those that grow in the wild. Swedish berries have become synonymous with freshness and deliciousness which has seen some industrialists name their products including candies and beauty products after the berries.
The research has been fundamental in increasing my knowledge of my native Sweden since it was thorough and carefully planned. The first step involved coming up with a suitable topic for research. Since I wanted to write something about Sweden, I had to carry out some minimal research about the natural resources in the country and came to know a lot about the resources in this country through this initial research. After I had identified the topic, I researched on some background information and looked up my keywords in the relevant encyclopaedias and read the relevant articles that shed light on the issues I had identified as key in my research in these encyclopaedias. I juxtaposed what I found in the relevant reference material with information from subject text books. I then used the keywords I had identified to find books that were relevant to the topic. I then extracted the relevant information from the different books before using different search engines to carry out research on the subject in the internet. This research not only gave me invaluable information in my topic of interest, but also informed me on various facts of interest such as the natural resources; politics, agriculture, and trade Sweden; berries and their nutritional value; life in Sweden and other countries; and Swedish culture and cuisine. I had some limited knowledge on these but the same was greatly enhanced by the research
Sustainability of wild berries in Sweden basically is based on conservation and protection of forests in the country. It can be done by putting various legislative measures in place that control human encroachment on the land. As Lutz and Caldcott (1999) state, it is also important to conduct scientific research on breeding new berries to match the changing weather and climate patterns. Thus, the country will have done a big favour to the current and future generations.