From exotic plants to beloved vegetables – Swedish eating habit

A few hundred years ago, Swedish everyday food came from what your own farm and its surroundings could produce, for example turnips, swedes and grain. Urbanisation lead to changed living conditions and eating habits. Food is no longer something we grow but buy.


Potatoes came to Sweden during the 17thcentury as a decorative plant in botanical gardens and castle gardens. In the 1770s and 1780s, the potato became more common as food, first in the cities. Early in the 19thcentury, it gets its success with common people. Then roasted potatoes where most common, people started to boil their potatoes later.


The tomato came to Europe after Columbus’s journey to America. There are notes about tomatoes growing in Swedish gardens in the 17thoch 18thcenturies. As with the potato, the popularity of tomatoes started in the cities. This was early in the 19thcentury, but the popularity and use of tomatoes increased first around 1930 when we started to roast tomatoes, use it for pickled herring, and serve tomatoes on the plate. Ketchup is introduced in the 1910s, but becomes widely popular from the 1950s and onwards.


The eggplant is present on the menus of the upper classes in the 1920s. First during the 1960s and 1970s, it turns up more commonly in our kitchens as an ingredient in moussaka and in ratatouille.


Chili has been used as a spice ground into powder (“Chilipeppar”) since just after the Second World War. In the 1980s, chili became more widely used, but when the cookbook Eat the Heat was published in 1996 the use of chilies literally exploded. Since the turn of the millennium, the use of and the supply of different chilies continues to increase year by year.

More edible species from the nightshade family

Apart from the species above you have pobably tasted Cape gooseberry Physalis peruviana. But several more are to be found in the store. Have you tried tamarillo Solanum betaceum, naranjilla Solanum quitoense, pepino Solanum muricatum, African eggplant Solanum macrocarpon, or the bitter tomato (Ethiopian eggplant) Solanum aethiopicum?