For anyone who has ever dug a hole in the fertile earth and tried to cultivate a plant, this is among the most appealing sites in Sweden. Its origins go back to the early 18th century, when Djurgården was dotted with small farms producing fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. In 1817, it was commandeered by the Swedish crown prince (Karl Johan) as the site of what became a small-scale summer palace. Rosendal Palace, a pink, ornamental confection, stands in elegant isolation on a hillock above what functions today as the biggest and most varied commercial organic garden in Stockholm.
In 1861, the Swedish Horticultural Society, whose aim involves "promoting more widespread and more orderly gardening in Sweden," moved into their headquarters on this site. In 1988, the Friends of Rosendal Garden was also set up on the site, with the aim to cultivate the land organically. Today, the site contains greenhouses, a sweeping mass of meticulously weeded beds for all kinds of plants, and meeting spaces for public courses on the environment, landscape gardening, composting techniques, and the cultivation of flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees. One of the greenhouses contains a cafe for organically grown "slow food" -- the antithesis, the staff will tell you, of fast food. Don't expect culinary glamour (or frankly, any real glamour at all) within the cafe. Set amid potted plants and flowering vines, the restaurant boasts a chalkboard menu and casual vibe. Main courses, priced at 95SEK to 155SEK ($19-$31/£10-£16) each, might include glasses of strictly organic "ecologically correct" wines, red beet salads, breaded and fried filets of rainbow trout served with creamy potato salad, gazpacho made from ingredients grown on-site, and pastries, many made from whole-wheat grains.
Visitors are encouraged to walk along the brick paths, gathering fruits, flowers, and vegetables directly from the beds for preparation within their homes or apartments. A caretaker, from a base within a delicate-looking glass-sided pavilion rising above the fields, charges by the kilo for whatever is gathered. A shop sells unusual canned goods, gift items, baked goods, and vegetables and fruits grown within the garden.
In the surrounding park, you'll find at least one example of every species of tree that's native to the vast landmass of Sweden. Fruits and vegetables in these northern climes have a very short time to mature, but thanks to the prolonged sunlight of Swedish summers, they seem to race through their life cycles, roaring from seedlings to mature plants in a dauntingly short time. Watching Stockholmers cherish the fertility of the site brings a sense of joy -- at least to those with the heart of a gardener.