Edible Forests? Yes to that.
In case you were wondering (I’m sure you were) today is World Forest Day.
Forests are one of the best things in the world, so it’s only fitting that the world in turn gives them their own day for us to stop and appreciate their glory. Trees counteract all the crap we humans keep putting into the atmosphere, and they make the very air we breathe cleaner. So you might say trees en masse (a.k.a. forests) are like an army of do-gooders. Just when I thought they couldn't really get much better, I learnt about edible forests. Yup, you heard me. EDIBLE FORESTS.
I first encountered the concept when someone shared a link on social media to the Beacon Food Forest, a project based in Seattle which aims to build a public food forest. The theory: a food forest open to anyone and everyone to enter and harvest fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts and just about anything else that grows naturally.
Permaculture is something I am learning ever more about, and something I hope to one day have a lot to do with. Essentially, and as so aptly put by the UK Permaculture Association, it is a design process that helps us build intelligent systems to meet human needs whilst enhancing biodiversity, reducing our impact on the planet, and creating a fairer world for us all. When the practise of permaculture is applied to a grand scale such as forests, exciting prospects happen.
I know we need to learn to walk before we can run and all that, and an edible forest isn’t something many of us can realistically consider, but check out Spiralseed to learn a bit more about how city-dwellers with just a teeny bit of land can make mini food forests. If you don't have any land, don't despair... even those of us without a speck of garden can get involved – I found this article super informative on how to get started growing your own without the land.
P.S. A nostalgic note on forest planting
After University, I spent 6 weeks in rural Kenya where I taught Social Studies at a local primary school. The education was very straight-laced... teachers talked at the class and wrote on the board; kids copied notes and didn’t talk, and for the most part were horrendously bored... very different from the interactive style I had known in New Zealand.
As I approached the module on forestry and its importance to both Kenya’s economy and environment, I wanted the kids to get involved in a hands-on way, and to experience the topic by interacting with it. So, with the headmaster’s permission, I bought some small seedlings and the class got involved in digging spots, planting the baby trees, building little fences around them, and watering them regularly.
They were all so proud and protective of the little trees, running past in between classes to check on them. I know kids tend to have enthusiasm where adults can't find it, but I think their excitement over their planted trees is a universal thing. There’s something about planting something with your own hands and being responsible for its growth and success; you’re innately invested in its well-being, in a really positive way. All I could say is just give it a go... you might find you love it!
I have to get back to Kenya one of these days, if not just to see how the trees have fared...