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« forest gardening »

black raspberries

Do you have a forest garden?

Our woods provide us with food during the year — morel mushrooms in the spring, black raspberries and gooseberries in the summer, walnuts and hickory nuts in the fall — and I’m sure we could harvest a lot more if we were more knowledgeable and/or adventurous.

(Right off the top of my hat, we don’t eat our dandelion greens and we leave the mulberries for the birds and raccoons.)

If you don’t already have woods, you can plant your own woodland garden, which will take care of itself, provide you with fruit, nuts, berries, salad greens, herbs, and more!

Read more about it:

“Imagine a garden that needs no weeding, watering, digging or feeding and can be left to look after itself for weeks, even months, on end. Go further: it’s organic, wildlife-friendly, disease resistant, reduces your weekly food bill and brings fashionable foraging to your doorstep.” — The Garden of the Future?

“The idea behind forest gardening is that natural forests produce an abundance of food. People the world over have harvested food from the forest, reaping where they did not sow. Forest gardeners imitate the forest’s natural structure to take advantage of this abundance, but they increase yields even further through careful planning and management. The result is a productive fusion of garden, orchard and woodland.” — Plant an Edible Forest Garden

“Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches — pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage — hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden.” — Edible Forest Gardens

“Starting as relatively conventional smallholders, Robert soon discovered that maintaining large annual vegetable beds, rearing livestock and taking care of an orchard were tasks beyond their strength. However, a small bed of perennial vegetables and herbs they had planted was looking after itself with little intervention. This led him to evolve the concept of the "forest garden". Based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct layers or "storeys", he used inter-cropping to develop an existing small orchard of apples and pears into an edible polyculture landscape consisting of seven levels.” — Wikipedia


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Reader Comments (19)!
thank you so much for posting it, i want my own forest garden! :)

May 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrea gutierrez

We do a lot of (what I always considered) gleaning in the summer and autumn. The gorgeous chestnuts all over campus, the Himalayan blackberries seemingly everywhere- there are parks and roadsides and forests full of nuts, fruits, and berries if you look. Last year we made loads of blackberry jam, pear and apple sauce, roast chestnuts, cherry preserves, even froze some wild strawberries, all for free!

I once heard about a site that keeps track of fruit trees that go unharvested in public spaces, wish I could come up with it now. I'd love to collect mushrooms, but need to study up first. I can recognize lots of things, but am hazy on mushrooms. :)

Also, I've been known to knock on people's doors who have unharvested fruit- often they are happy to let someone take the goods off their hands (we always pick some and leave it for them as well). All you have to do is ask. It breaks my heart a little to think of all those that go hungry and all the food that goes unharvested all around us.

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyrie

What beautiful black raspberries. Our CSA farmers have them growing in the wood surrounding their fields. We're looking forward to a visit to the farm when we'll get to pick some. I'm definitely going to read more about forest gardening.

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah N.

thank you, andrea! :^)

kyrie, i agree — i just finished reading a book, actually, talking about how some poor rural families simply don’t have the education to realize that they could be adding to their food resources by taking advantage of what is available on public lands. an interesting thought!

we are talking about planting more fruit and nut trees — i only wish we’d done it five years ago!

thank you, sarah! i’m reading more about it, too. as we rejuvenate our woods (the good timber was removed about 30 years ago and mostly weed trees took over), i love the idea of deliberately adding in more food-providing trees and shrubs.

May 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

You're right Lori, your blackberries are so clean! We'd pick one, eat one, pick one, eat two... :) And what a wonderful idea. My friend recently showed me a book called "Edible Estates: attack on the front lawn" by Fritz Haeg which suggested using wasted lawn space to grow food, a great idea for more urban areas like where we live in Orange County, California.

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

Lori, nice post. I like the idea of a personal woods, of course. But more, I like the idea of food producing woods we all can use. I was just thinking about something sort of related: how the notion that we should leave nature "untouched" really discourages food gathering in public land and about our experiences with food gathering here in Spiain.
My husband and son both believe that if there is going to be a plant around, it needs to earn its keep, so we've always had alot of food growing in the yard. It's sort of a family joke that every time I ("we don't have room for any more fruit trees!") l eave town, they plant a new fruit tree...

Kyrie, we "glean: alot and "rescue" neighbors cropst, too. got a whole lot of apricots one year, lots of lemons over the years. Made some friends in the process. .

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCordelia

When we were in California I was amazed to see all of the fruit going to waste in the city... Now that we are in Nova Scotia I am amazed that I don't see more people out taking advantage of what the forest all around has to offer! I am looking forward to a bountiful forest harvest this summer... edible food guide in hand we are heading into the forest!

This is all about education... Giving people the knowledge and confidence to harvest those "wild" things out there!
When we told the neighbor boy we made and ate dandelion fritters he looked at us like we were going to die before his very eyes and told us that he was not allowed to pick them because "those little yellow flowers can take your breath away"...

Thanks for another great post Lori!

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

naomi, that’s because these were *photo op* raspberries. ;^)

one thing i found really interesting about the forest gardening was how it was self-maintaining once you got it going — self-mulching, etc.

as a lazy gardener, i appreciate being able to set it up (kind of like a life-size terrarium!) and then let nature take over.

cordelia, i know — can you imagine a typical community garden, but with a forest garden alongside? :^)

i know what you are saying about that caveat to leave no trace — in the local parks, at least, i’m not sure what they would think about gathering food. mmm…

this whole idea (of forest gardening) is really affecting my ideas about our woodland and what we might add to create more food both for people and animals. i’m going to be thinking about it!

dawn, i agree — it would be interesting to see local gardening, hiking, or conservation groups giving educational hikes on edible forest foods!

there are really two issues here — taking advantage of what’s already there, on the one hand, and enhancing it on the other.

dandelion fritters!! one of our favorite summer treats (admittedly off topic) is fried pumpkin blossoms — pumpkin flowers cleaned, dried, dipped in egg and then cracker crumbs, and fried in butter! delicious! :^)

May 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

Wow, amazing! I want my own Forest Garden and now I'm going to have to definitely learn more about it.

Your blog is awesome and I'm so glad I've "found" you :) I can't wait to get caught up!

May 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

thank you, lauren! :^D

June 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

We get wild grapes, black raspberries, and walnuts from our land/woods. We also make honeysuckle jelly and syrup from our honeysuckle blooms on our trees. I'm planning on making dandelion jelly sometime soon. And we don't weed in our lettuce patch very well, so sometimes we eat the odd clover or blade of grass. =) I am sure we could have even more if we actively looked for it.

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

If we are going to get a little off topic... go ahead and take some squash blossoms, grate some pepper jack cheese, stuff them, dip them in some egg and fry in butter.... yummy! :)

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

what a yummy off topic idea! When I get back to California, I'll have to beg, borrow or steal some blossoms and try it.

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCordelia

I think I want to live in a forest garden. Such a spiritual way to interact with soil and plants. ~ a

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlis

sarah, honeysuckle syrup!!! see, i have so much i’m not taking advantage of…

dawn, okay, i see you’ve one-upped me in the blossom-frying department! :^)

alis, very hobbit-y, don’t you think? ;^)

June 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

Cordelia... When we lived it Cali I would get the blossoms at the farmer's market... as a matter of fact we got the organic pepper jack there too! Wonderful way to end market day!!

Back on topic... We had fiddleheads tonight. We have been looking for them in the forest but have been unsure of identification... Saw them at the market and got some... both for identification help and of course to see if we would like them! Yummy!

June 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

mmm, fiddleheads! :^)

June 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

i had to share this on believing nature:
thanks so much!

June 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrea gutierrez

thank you, andrea! :^)

June 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

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