Like most countries during the World Wars, Sweden suffered from severe food shortages. Families were allocated small plots of land to grow vegetables, and then many built small wooden structures in which to live. Often there was only one room with all family members sleeping inside, furniture was moved aside to make way for bed-time. The tradition of keeping allotments continues now in Sweden, and many train lines are bordered by well-kept allotments and small gardens.
I’ve had my name down for an allotment in North London for the past eighteen months, last time I checked the time on the waiting list was at 20 years – so sometime in 2032 I will be able to start planting my tomatoes. In Sweden there are over 42, 000 allotment gardens; in larger cities many people live in apartments so really cherish their small green space. Many Swedes would often grow fruit and vegetable in the Summer and Autumn, and store them for the long, cold Winter ahead. At points of national crisis, allotments were crucial for for production. Nowadays, most allotment gardeners tend to their allotments for pleasure and relaxation; however with the trend of grow-your-own more people are again using their allotment for growing fruits and vegetables.
The first allotment appeared in Malmo in 1895, and they soon spread to 1895 Stockholm in 1904. A society lady Anna Lindhagen was a pioneer for the gardens, she found them delightful to look at and encouraged authorities to increase the number of gardens. The land was and still is rented from the local authorities.
If you are visiting Sweden, the allotment gardens in Tanto, central Stockholm are well worth a visit (pictured above) – particularly at the end of August when the allotment gardeners hold a harvest festival. There are all types of gardens in Tanto: designer gardens, kitchen gardens, countryside gardens, vegetable gardens, and pay particular attention to the original cottages from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.